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Announcements from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy

May 9, 2014

Hot Off the Presses 

  1. The U.S. Departments of Education, Labor and Health and Human Services have announced the release of a Request for Information (RFI) to support the development of high-quality career pathways systems. The Departments are working together to improve the alignment of training and job skills programs at State, regional, tribal and local levels to better meet employer needs. Responses will inform the work of each Department as they design investments, policies and legislative strategies to improve career outcomes for youth and adults. Stakeholders are encouraged to submit comments outlining career issues unique to rural. Instructions on how to respond can be found at https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/04/23/2014-09274/request-for-information-on-adoption-of-career-pathways-approaches-for-the-delivery-of-education. The response period is open until June 9, 2014.

  1. Click here for the latest issue of MLN Connects, a weekly newsletter that gives provider news and updates that may affect how rural providers are impacted by CMS rollouts. This week’s issue includes:
    • CLIA  issues
    • Nursing home issues
    • Information on Stage 2 of Meaningful Use

Previous issues and a link to subscribe to MLN Connects are available in the archive.

Rural Research Highlights

  1. Extent of Telehealth Use in Rural and Urban Hospitals
    Using the 2013 HIMSS Analytics database, researchers from the RUPRI Center for Health Policy Analysis analyze the extent of use of telehealth (aka telemedicine) and find that 34.0% of rural hospitals and 32.0% of urban hospitals had at least one telehealth application currently in use. Rural and urban hospitals did not differ significantly in overall telehealth implementation rates, however rural and urban hospitals did differ in the department where telehealth was implemented. In particular, rural hospitals were more likely than urban hospitals to have implemented telehealth in radiology departments and in emergency/trauma care. In contrast, urban hospitals were more likely than rural hospitals to have implemented telehealth in cardiology/stroke/heart attack programs, neurology, and obstetrics/gynecology/NICU/pediatrics.
  2. Health Insurance Coverage of Low-Income Rural Children Increases and is More Continuous Following CHIP Implementation
    Prior to the passage of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), about one in four low-income rural and urban children (family income below 200% of the federal poverty level) were uninsured in a given month. Using data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, this study found that in the years following CHIP’s implementation health insurance coverage and continuity increased among low-income children—particularly for those living in rural areas. By CHIP’s maturity, coverage for rural children improved so much that their uninsured rate dropped below that of urban children (14% compared to 20%, respectively).Among those with health insurance, rural children were more likely than their urban counterparts to lose coverage pre-CHIP, and were less likely to lose it after CHIP was in place for five or more years. Whether low-income rural adults will see similar gains in coverage continuity under the Affordable Care Act may depend on whether states choose to participate in Medicaid expansions and what outreach strategies they use to enroll rural populations.

More recent rural research can be found on http://www.ruralhealthresearch.org/.

Webinars, Events, and Technical Assistance

  1. The TexLa Telehealth Resource Center invites you to attend their Telehealth Summit 2014, “Assistance from a Distance,” an exciting two-day glimpse into the world of Telehealth.  The Summit will be held at The Moody Gardens Hotel in Galveston, Texas, and will run from June 23-25, 2014. Health care providers (primary care and specialty), hospital systems, rural clinics, FQHCs, policymakers, educators, government agencies, employers (large and small; public and private), health insurance providers, and others with an interest in health services delivery or telehealth technology may be interested in attending.
                           
  2. Celebrate National Women’s Health Week with HRSA on May 11-17, 2014.  This week long observance is led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The goal is to empower women to make health a priority.  More than 28 million women 18 and older live in rural or frontier America who need access to quality health care services.  All women in rural and frontier areas are affected by access issues, specifically lack of primary and specialty care services.  National Women’s Health Week also serves as a time to help woman understand what it means to be well and the steps they can take to maintain a healthier lifestyle.  For more information and resources, go to  http://www.hrsa.gov/womenshealth/index.html.
  3. On Thursday, May 15th at 2:00 pm EDT, CMS will hold a Rural Open Door Forum call.  There will be a guest speaker representing the White House Rural Council.CMS sponsors Rural Open Door Forum calls to provide an opportunity for live dialogue with rural health care providers and other stakeholders.  They enable CMS to share current information about new initiatives and policies related to Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP and Affordable Care Act benefits, and allow participants to ask questions for further clarification.  For Open Door Forum schedule updates and e-mail list registration, visit http://www.cms.gov/OpenDoorForums/.  Agenda information will be distributed to those on the email list.To participate on the May 15th call, please dial 800-837-1935, then provide conference ID # 71136304.

Other Useful Information and Resources

  1. The  Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released a new interactive search tool that can help consumers and other stakeholders navigate information about the types of medical services and procedures delivered by physicians and other healthcare professionals. Rural providers can check their publicly available data, and rural residents can use the tool to begin to compare their provider(s) to others. Users can search for a provider by name, address, or National Provider Identifier (NPI). Once a user selects a provider, the tool returns information about the services the provider furnished to Medicare beneficiaries, including the number of services provided, the number of beneficiaries treated, and the average payment and charges for such services.This new look-up tool makes it easier to use the large data set about physician information that CMS released on April 9, 2014 to look up specific providers. The look-up tool and downloadable data files are included in the database of Data Navigator data sources.
  2. On May 2nd, CMS published the final Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) Prospective Payment System (PPS) rule in the Federal Register.  The rule increases Medicare payments for FQHCs by as much as 32 percent.  The new PPS takes effect October 1, with FQHCs transitioning to it through 2015.  The rule also relaxes nurse practitioner (NP) and physician assistant (PA) requirements for Rural Health Clinics (RHCs), requiring only that one NP or PA in each RHC be employed.  In addition, CMS requests comments on how to adapt the Chronic Care Management services payment proposed under the Physician Fee Schedule for Part B practices to FQHCs and RHCs.

Funding Opportunities 

  1. The Office of Rural Health Policy (ORHP) is pleased to announce the release of 15 Rural Health Network Development Grant Program (RHND) awards in FY 2014.  The goal of the RHND Program is to assist rural health care providers in acclimating to the evolving health care environment by addressing relevant topics of the health care environment as identified by the rural community. ORHP was pleased to implement a new approach for the program this fiscal year to develop a program that will demonstrate outcomes, and position networks to be successful in the current healthcare landscape.  Grantees awarded under this three year program are mature, rural integrated health care networks that have combined the functions of the entities participating in the network in order to: achieve efficiencies; expand access to, coordinate, and improve the quality of essential health care services; and strengthen the rural health care system as a whole. Through collaboration and combined functions of the network members to meet these charges, networks can maximize rural health resources and health care services which can be modeled in other communities, both rural and urban.For additional information on the FY14 Rural Health Network Development Grant Program grantees, please visit: http://www.hrsa.gov/ruralhealth/about/community/networkprogram.htmlIf you have any questions about the program, please contact Jayne Berube:  jberube@hrsa.gov or 301-443-4281.
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