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Announcements from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy

June 14, 2018

What’s New

Atlas of Rural and Small-Town America. The Economic Research Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture has updated its atlas of rural areas with the most recent data available from the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics on a number of socio-economic factors for the people who live in small towns.  The interactive map provides a pop-up window for each county with information on demographics, rural-urban classification, income, employment trends and status of veterans.  The 2018 County Health Rankings makes a direct correlation between these socio-economic indicators and health outcomes.

Rural Health  Research

Geographic Variation in Uncompensated Care Between Rural and Urban Hospitals. This brief just posted on the Rural Health Research Gateway reports on substantial differences in uncompensated care as a percent of operating expense between rural and urban hospitals and among regions of the country.  Researchers at the North Carolina Rural Health Research and Policy Analysis Center examined 2014-2016 Medicare Cost Reports and found that median uncompensated care costs declined across hospitals and Census regions. However, the costs increased for hospitals with less than $20 million in net patient revenue.  In 2016, the hospitals with the highest median uncompensated care as a percentage of operating expense were Critical Access Hospitals, other rural hospitals, and urban hospitals in the South.

Subscribe to research alerts from the Rural Health Research Gateway to be notified when new reports are available.

Policy Updates for Rural Health

Visit the FORHP Policy page to see all recent updates and send questions to ruralpolicy@hrsa.gov

Comments Requested: Rural Health Workgroup for Quality Measurement – July 2.  The Federal Office of Rural Health Policy has been partnering with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the National Quality Forum (NQF) on the Measures Application Partnership (MAP) Rural Health Workgroup. The group was formed by CMS in 2017 to include the perspectives of rural providers and patients as those most knowledgeable about the challenges in rural areas to measuring performance in health care delivery.  The workgroup has developed recommendations and identified a core set of the best available (i.e., “rural relevant”) measures and identified rural-relevant gaps in measurement in the MAP Rural Health Draft Report 2 (pdf).  Those wishing to comment on these recommendations can create an NQF account and submit online.

Comments Requested: Increasing Investment in the Healthcare Sector – July 7.  The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS or the Department) seeks comment from the public on an effort to increase private sector innovation and investment in health care.  Specifically, the Department seeks input on the structure of a workgroup formed to increase dialogue and engagement between HHS and “those focused on innovating and investing in the healthcare industry, such as healthcare innovation-focused companies, healthcare startup incubators and accelerators, healthcare investment professionals, healthcare-focused private equity firms, healthcare-focused venture capital firms, and lenders to healthcare investors and innovators.”  The request pertains only to the way such a workgroup may be convened and structured and seeks other ideas for ongoing public-private engagement.  Rural stakeholders may have something to contribute to specific areas of focus and inquiry for the workgroup, including perceived barriers to innovation and competition in the healthcare industry and the effect of HHS programs and regulations on rural areas.

Resources, Learning Events and Technical Assistance

HRSA Maternal Mortality Summit – June 19-21.  The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will host health care officials from six nations – Canada, Brazil, India, Rwanda, Finland and the United Kingdom – as well as the U.S. Surgeon General and other health care leaders from across the U.S. government and academia for this three-day conference on maternal mortality. The HRSA Maternal Mortality Summit will examine challenges and seek innovative solutions to reduce maternal mortality in the United States and globally.  Maternal health is the first factor in health outcomes for all individuals, but recent research shows a decline in maternal care in rural areas.

Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program (MDPP) Webinar Wednesday, June 20 at 1:30 pm ET. CMS MDPP team will present information about the processes organizations and health care providers must go through to enroll as MDPP suppliers, and how to bill for services.  Rural areas tend to have higher rates of diabetes than urban areas, and billing correctly for reimbursement can be a challenge for providers to Medicare beneficiaries.

Lessons Learned from School-Based Telehealth Networks – Thursday, June 21 at 2:00 pm ET.  The HRSA-funded Mid-Atlantic Telehealth Resource Center will provide insight on the 2016 grant program for telehealth-enabled school-based health centers in rural communities.  During the hour-long webinar, you will hear about the successes, challenges and lessons learned from three of the grantees as they approach the completion of the 2nd year of their four-year grant funded initiatives.

HRSA Virtual Job Fair for Primary Care Clinicians – Wednesday, June 27 at 6:45 pm ET.  HRSA’s Bureau of Health Workforce seeks clinicians for participation in this 3.5 hour event.  Virtual Job Fairs are free, interactive events held online to allow primary care providers a chance to talk about their NHSC- or NURSE Corps-approved site, the community they serve and currently available positions.  Job-seeking primary care trainees and practicing clinicians can connect with as many 100 organizations during this event.

Resource of the Week

Preparing for Rural Opioid Response Funding Opportunity. The National Rural Health Resource Center is a non-profit organization that provides technical assistance, information, tools and resources to build state and local capacity for rural health.  To help communities prepare for HRSA’s upcoming rural opioid response funding opportunity, the Center has pulled together a number of its resources on forming community-level partnerships, integrating behavioral health and applying for federal grants.

Approaching Deadlines

Director Training for Rural Residency Programs – June 15
Resources for Tribal Self Governance Planning – June 17
Resources for Tribal Self Governance Negotiation – June 17
Research to Promote Health and Well-Being For Children – July 18
Family-to-Family Health Information (DE, HI, ME, MT, NV) – June 18
State Initiative for Child Abuse and Neglect – June 18
Call for Abstracts:  SEARCH Telehealth Research Symposium – June 20
Tribal Behavioral Health Grant Program – June 22
DOJ Funding: Services for Victims of Human Trafficking – June 25
Evidence-Based Tele-Behavioral Health Network Program – June 25
Comments Requested: Interoperability/Data Sharing in Hospitals and CAHs – June 25
CDC Health Promotion Research Centers – June 25
Comments Requested: CMS Updates Payment and Policy for Hospitals – June 25
Comments Requested: Policy Updates to Medicare Hospice – June 26
Comments Requested: Policy Updates to Psychiatric Facilities – June 26
Comments Requested: Policy Updates for Rehabilitation Facilities – June 26
Comments Requested: Policy Updates for Skilled Nursing Facilities – June 26
Faculty Loan Repayment – June 28
Preventing Rural Teen Pregnancy – June 29
CMS Annual Call for Medicare EHR Incentive Program Measures  – June 29
Rural Health Care Telecommunications Program – June 29
Deadline for Hospitals EHR Hardship Exception July 1
Comments Requested: Rural Health Workgroup for Quality Measurement – July 2
Comments Requested: HRSA Burden Reduction – July 2
Comments Requested: Increasing Investment in the Healthcare Sector – July 7
Grants to Expand Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics – July 9
Comments Requested: Policy for Durable Medical Equipment in Rural Areas – July 9
CDC – Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) – July 16
Coordinating Research for Rural Opioid HIV Initiative Letters of Intent – July 16
Substance Use Funding for NHSC Sites – July 17
Research to Promote Health and Well-Being For Children – July 18
Family-to-Family Health Information Centers (Tribes and U.S. Territories) – July 19
Invest in Rural Transportation – July 19
Grants for Transportation of Veterans in Highly Rural Areas – July 30
Injury Control Research Centers – August 6
CDC Funding Data Collection for Violent Death Reporting – August 7
CDC Funding to Address Obesity in High Risk Rural Areas – August 8
Guaranteed Loans for Rural Rental Housing – Ongoing through 2021
Telecommunications Infrastructure Loans – Ongoing
Funding for Rural Water and Waste Disposal Projects –  Ongoing
Drinking Water and Waste Disposal for Rural and Native Alaskan Villages – Ongoing