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Announcements from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy

August 1, 2016

What’s New

County Health Rankings: What Works for Rural Health.  The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation issued a follow-up to their 2016 County Health Rankings, outlining specific policies and programs rural communities can implement to improve health and wellbeing.   Within the report, you’ll find details about finding and choosing the right solution for your community; what’s working to prepare and strengthen local workforces, improve diet and exercise, and reduce injuries; and a discussion of the many factors that influence health. Strategies that have been studied and deployed in rural communities are emphasized throughout the report.

CMS Overall Hospital Quality Star Ratings.  On July 27, CMS released an Overall Hospital Quality Star Rating on the Hospital Compare Website. The objective of the Star Ratings project is to summarize information from existing measures on Hospital Compare in a way that is useful and easy to interpret for patients and consumers. The data and methodology CMS examined excluded 937 hospitals, 671 of these are CAHs, because these hospitals did not meet the minimum data requirements to have a star calculated. Rural Quality Improvement Technical Assistance (RQITA) staff have prepared a brief document that provides a rural-specific overview of the new Star Rating.

Rural Health Research

Vulnerable Rural Counties: The Changing Rural Landscape, 2000-2010.  Findings from the South Carolina Rural Health Research Center suggest that rural America experienced the recession that ended the 2000–2010 decade more severely than did urban America. Loss of income, declining population and reduced health care resources marked the period for most rural counties. Rural counties will need continued monitoring in the present decade to ascertain whether these adverse trends continue and to identify any policy approaches that can serve to ameliorate losses in health care services.  For more information, see the Fact Sheet.

Resources, Learning Events and Technical Assistance

CMS & HRSA Low Income Health Access Open Door Forum – Wednesday, August 3rd, 2:00 pm ET.  This quarterly conference provides information on new guidance or initiatives in programs for people with low-incomes, such as the Medicaid and SCHIP programs. On the agenda for Wednesday’s call:  Medicare Managed Care regulations; proposed changes to chronic care management and transitional care management requirements,  billing for nursing visits in home health shortage areas by an RHC or FQHC; proposed 2017 FQHC Market Basket. Conference call only: 1-800-837-1935 , Conference ID: 42123169, to learn about important CMS changes effecting safety net providers.  CMS presenters will be speaking on:

Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program Webinar – Tuesday, August 9th at 12 pm ET.  Registration is now open for this webinar hosted by The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation (CMS Innovation Center) to discuss various aspects of the Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program proposal. This program is particularly important for providers in the most rural areas where, according to the AHRQ Chartbook on Rural Health Care, hospital admissions for uncontrolled diabetes are higher.  As proposed, the program is a clinical intervention that consists of 16 intensive “core” sessions of a curriculum in a group-based, classroom-style setting with practical training in long-term dietary change, increased physical activity, and behavior change strategies for weight control. The Diabetes Prevention Program is part the calendar year 2017 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule proposed rule, for which CMS will accept comments until September 6, 2016.  For more information on the Physician Fee Schedule, please visit

Resource of the Week

Rural Impact Community Challenge.  The National Association of Counties (NACo) and the White House Rural Council have come together on a national initiative to help advance counties’ efforts to reduce the number of rural children and families living in poverty. The Rural Impact County Challenge (RICC) calls on county officials to pass a resolution that commits them to an actionable plan.  Counties still wishing to join can use the template resolution provided on the website, submit a short registration form and begin receiving a weekly newsletter with rural-focused research, state and federal funding opportunities, invitations to participate in monthly webinars with Senior Administration Officials and fellow Challenge participants, and a platform for peer learning opportunities to share best practices and barriers.

Approaching Deadlines

Programs to Reduce Obesity – August 2

Viral Hepatitis Testing and Diagnosis – August 2

Healthy Eating Research Grants – August 3

Comment: Conditions of Participation for Hospitals – August 15

Health Center Program Service Area Competition – August 16

Early Head Start and EHS-Child Care Partnership Grants – August 24

Early Head Start for Migrant and Seasonal Worker families – August 24

Early Head Start forAmerican Indian/Alaska Natives – August 24

Comment:  Changes to Home Health Payment Rates – August 26

HIV/AIDS Prevention and Engagement in Care – August 28

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