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Updates from HRSA

Rural Guide to Federal Health Professions Funding

A new resource guide, “Rural Guide to Federal Health Professions Funding,” is now available. It is accessible via the “Resources” page of the ORHP Web site.

Rural communities have long struggled with the recruitment and retention of health care clinicians. This challenge can be further exacerbated by limited familiarity with the various Federal programs designed to support the training and placement of health care providers in underserved communities.  While rural hospitals, clinics and nursing homes are potentially the beneficiaries, they have to work through others to take advantage of the resources provided via the Federal programs. It has been challenging at times to connect the mission of educational institutions, as grantee applicants, with potential community (hospital and health care facility) beneficiaries.

This guide includes information that will increase the familiarity of rural health care providers regarding the broad range of Federal workforce funding. It emphasizes opportunities available through the HHS Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). These multiple grant programs can work together synergistically to help address the continuing multi-faceted rural health care delivery challenges. Contact information is included for additional information.This resource guide is a product of the Office of Rural Health Policy’s ongoing efforts to support the President’s Improving Rural Health Care Initiative that was included in the 2010 and 2011 budgets.  The initiative includes a charge for HHS to improve recruitment and retention of health care providers in rural communities. The Initiative tasks ORHP with improving coordination and promotion of existing health professions programs within HRSA to assist rural communities in this challenge. This manual provides a road map to meet that charge.

HRSA’s workforce programs have two entry points. The bulk of the HRSA Bureau of Health Professions (BHPr) programs provide grants to educational institutions. The bulk of the HRSA Bureau of Clinician Recruitment and Services (BCRS) programs, which includes the National Health Service Corps (NHSC), focus on loans and scholarships. The individual provider must apply for these and only certain health care providers are eligible. There frequently is a lack of familiarity among rural hospitals, clinics and nursing homes with how to link the clinicians they are recruiting or employing with the scholarship and loan repayment programs for which they may be eligible. The guide addresses this issue as well.

Helpful Tips for HRSA Grants

Find helpful grant tips on the HRSA website. The tips are around grants.gov, FFRs, and the new non-competing process.

CMS Proposed Rule: Hospital Inpatient Value-Based Purchasing – Comments due March 8.

The CMS proposed rule (press release and synopsis attached), Hospital Inpatient Value-Based Purchasing (VBP) Program, has been released for comment to the public on January 7, 2011.  ORHP encourages that rural providers and stakeholders please provide your comments to CMS.  This rule would reward hospitals for providing high quality, safe care for patients according to performance on clinical and experience of care, and improvement measures. It aims to link Medicare payment systems to improvement in health care quality. It speaks to the direction that the health care environment is going towards politically by linking performance to payment. Furthermore, some of the measures (Pneumonia, Congestive Heart Failure, and HCAHPS) that hospitals will be evaluated against are aligned to the ORHP program called the Flex Medicare Quality Improvement Project. CAHs, however, will not be subject to the VBP Program. CMS was authorized in the Accountable Care Act to conduct demonstrations on VBP for CAHs and PPS hospitals that report a low number of cases. ORHP will share information regarding these demonstrations when it becomes available.

This is the public’s opportunity to ensure the rural voice is heard. Please submit your comments to CMS by March 8, 2011. The proposed rule was placed on display at the Federal Register, and can be found under Special Filings at: www.ofr.gov/inspection.aspx#special.  For more information, please see: www.cms.gov/hospitalqualityinits.

CMS Opens Electronic Health Record Incentive Program Registration

Registration is now available to eligible health care professionals and hospitals who wish to participate in Medicare and Medicaid electronic health record (EHR) incentive programs.

Through Medicare, eligible professionals can receive up to $44,000 over a five-year period, and as much as $63,750 over six years under Medicaid.  Under both programs, eligible hospitals may receive millions of dollars for implementing and meaningfully using certified EHR technology.

Registration in the Medicaid program is available in Alaska, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.  In February, registration will open in California, Missouri and North Dakota.  Other states likely will launch their Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs during the spring and summer of 2011.

Interested providers should visit CMS’ Official Web Site for the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs.  The site provides general and detailed information on the programs, including tabs on the path to payment, eligibility, meaningful use, certified EHR technology, and frequently asked questions.

Eligible providers seeking to participate in the Medicaid programs must initiate registration at CMS’ registration site but complete the process through an eligibility verification site maintained by their state Medicaid agency.  Questions about state launch dates should be directed to state Medicaid agencies.

Those who meet eligibility requirements for both Medicare and Medicaid programs must select one program when they register.  After receiving payment, they may change their program selection once before 2015.  Hospitals that are eligible for both programs can receive payments from both Medicare and Medicaid.

ONC Issues Final Rule for Permanent Certification Program for Health Information Technology

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has issued a final rule to establish the permanent certification program for health information technology (HIT).  The permanent certification program provides new features that will enhance the certification of HIT, including increasing the comprehensiveness, transparency, reliability, and efficiency of the current processes used for the certification of electronic health record (EHR) technology.  Meaningful use of “Certified EHR Technology” is a core requirement for eligible health care providers who seek to qualify to receive incentive payments under the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record Incentive Programs.

The temporary certification program, established through a final rule published on June 24, 2010, will continue to be in effect until it sunsets on December 31, 2011, or at a later date when the processes necessary for the permanent certification program to operate are completed.  ONC expects to stand-up the programmatic activities necessary to implement the permanent certification program throughout 2011.

For more information, click here.

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