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Announcements from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy

June 27, 2016

What’s New

Comments Due on Quality Payment Program Proposed Rule – June 27. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will accept comment at FederalRegister.gov until 11:59 pm ET on Monday, June 27. The proposal first issued on April 27 would change the way clinicians are paid under Medicare, aiming to lower costs while raising the quality of health care delivery.  Change in payments is the first step toward implementing the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA), consolidating three existing payment programs under the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS):  the Physician Quality Reporting System, the Physician Value-based Payment Modifier and the Electronic Health Record Incentive Program.

Considerations are being made for low-volume providers.  Currently, Rural Health Clinics and Federally Qualified Health Centers would be excluded from MIPS reporting because they are paid differently under Medicare.  CMS has asked for comment on whether these safety net providers should have the option to voluntarily report on measures with no penalty in order to remain in alignment with broader efforts under Delivery System Reform.  For the final rule, they will need to better understand the challenges that are unique to rural areas and how these changes would affect your practice.

This week, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services announced $100 million over the next five years to help individual and small practices in rural areas succeed in the Quality Payment Program. In order to receive funding, organizations must demonstrate their ability to strategically provide customized training to clinicians, helping them evaluate options for joining an Alternative Payment Model and quality measures appropriate for their practices’ needs.  Most importantly, organizations that receive this funding will provide education and consultation at no cost to the clinician or their practice.  Visit FedBizOpps.gov for more information on how to apply as a contractor, and attend a pre-proposal conference at 1:00 p.m. EST on June 30, 2016. Register early to receive an email confirmation with instructions for joining the session.

Until that technical assistance becomes available, you can refer to  online resources about the Quality Payment Program and sign up for email updates on the CMS website.

Funding Opportunities

Health Center Program Service Area Competition – deadline August 16.  Both current grantees and new organizations within existing service areas of the Health Center Program may apply for this funding to provide comprehensive primary care services in underserved communities.  Rural public and nonprofit private organizations interested in applying should carefully review eligibility criteria in the application guidance and ensure that registration and passwords in Grants.gov and the federal government’s System for Award Management (SAM) are up to date.  New registration at these websites may take up to one month to complete.  Technical assistance for the application process is available.

Monitoring Zika-Related Birth Defects – deadline July 1.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are making funds available to state governments for rapid response surveillance of birth defects possibly linked to Zika virus infection during pregnancy.  The information will be used to inform public health intervention.  Currently, the CDC reports 1,440 cases of infection in U.S. territories; the vast majority of these are locally-acquired cases in Puerto Rico (1,386), while 755 cases of travel-related infection have been reported in mainland states.  The CDC’s current map of areas where mosquitos with the potential to carry Zika have been found include the entire southern portion of the U.S.   While these cover many rural counties, research about these mosquitos show that they’re found more often in urban areas. You can learn more about Zika, find guidelines for providers and read the Draft Interim Response Plan on the CDC website.

Resources, Learning Events and Technical Assistance

Rural-Urban Differences in Practices for LGBT Patients – Monday, June 27th at 3:00 pm ET. This month’s webinar from the Rural Population Health Learning Collaborative will feature David Tillman, Chair and Assistant Professor of Public Health at the Campbell University School of Public Health, Buies Creek, NC in a discussion about the impact of rural isolation for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) patients.  Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android at https://zoom.us/j/7069532956 , or dial: +1 415 762 9988  (US Toll) or +1 646 568 7788  (US Toll).  Learn more about the challenges to LGBT healthcare at the Rural Health Information Hub.

Real-Time Consultation for Substance Use Management – Thursday, June 30, 2:00 pm ET. This webinar will raise awareness about the Substance Use Warmline, a free and confidential consultation telephone service with practical, every-day help for primary care clinicians. The service is a help to rural and frontier providers with real-time access to expert clinical consultation for managing substance use in patients with difficult issues of addiction, chronic pain, and behavioral health.  This activity is approved for 1.5 hours of Continuing Nursing Education (CNE).

Evidence-Based Toolkits for Rural Community Health – Current step-by-step guides in this resource from the Rural Health Information Hub include toolkits on obesity prevention, oral health, Community Health Workers and care coordination.  The evidence-based approaches in each can be adapted to your community’s needs, helping you learn what works for rural areas and how to get around common obstacles.  RHIHub is currently seeking new topics to add and request that you send ideas for challenges and/or possible solutions to Keyana Boka at kboka@hrsa.gov by July 31, 2016.

Resource of the Week

Engaging Your Board and Community on Value-Based Care. 

Rural Health Value has created a series of conversation starting questions to help health care organization (HCO) leaders engage with board and community members on transitioning to value-based care.  The questions are divided into four categories: Mission and Community, Health Care Value, Clinician Relationships, and Business Intelligence.  These conversations will lay the groundwork for informed strategic planning and wise operational decision-making that will help HCOs succeed during the transition from volume to value.

Approaching Deadlines

Comments on Medicare Payment Reform – June 27
Loan Repayment for Health Professions Faculty – June 30
Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) Update – June 30
Additional Funding for TCPI – July 11
Rural Community Development Initiative – July 22
Programs to Reduce Obesity – deadline August 2

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