Announcements from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy

September 27, 2017

What’s New

Roadmap to Behavioral Health.  A consumer guide that connects individuals to resources for disaster distress, suicide prevention, veterans crisis and recovery from substance use disorder was created by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).  The guide provides simple explanations of feelings and behaviors that may need attention, a check list for getting help and treatment, and tips for managing long-term behavioral health care.  According to SAMSHA data from 2015, more than 18% of residents in non-metropolitan counties had some sort of mental illness in the previous year, which amounts to more than 6 million people.

CMS Reveals New Medicare Cards. CMS redesigned Medicare cards to include a unique, randomly assigned number in place of one’s Social Security number. Medicare beneficiaries can expect to receive their new card in the mail beginning in April 2018 and all cards must be replaced by April 2019. CMS will provide 21 months for health care providers and Medicare beneficiaries to transition to the new cards during which they can use either their current SSN-based Medicare number or their new Medicare number. Congress required new Medicare cards to prevent fraud and combat identity theft in the elder population. Rural hospitals can help by protecting facilities against malicious software attacks.

Effective Post-ER Suicide Prevention. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. and varies by geography. Rural communities have higher rates of suicide than urban areas and the disparity has widened over time. Recent research supported by the National Institute of Mental Health showed that sending caring postcards or letters each month to at-risk patients following an emergency visit reduced suicide attempts and deaths and slightly reduced health care costs. Universal screening of ER patients for suicide risk could substantially increase the public health benefits of the post-ER postcard intervention and other prevention efforts. Additional resources on suicide prevention can help rural hospitals and other providers improve mental health care in their communities.

Funding Opportunities

For CAHs: Pediatric Readiness Quality Improvement – October 13.  The Emergency Medical Services for Children Program at HRSA requests applications from Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) to participate in this initiative.  Participating hospitals will receive mentoring from the Pediatric Readiness Quality Collaborative (PRQC); physicians can earn Maintenance of Certification Part IV credit and nurses can receive Continuing Nursing Education credit. The PRQC will focus on pediatric patient safety, patient assessments, inter-facility transfer guidelines, and disaster preparedness. Using a train-the-trainer model, teams will be supported through targeted quality improvement education, the provision of tools and resources to support local efforts, and sharing of best practices.  The deadline to submit a letter of interest has been extended to October 13, 2017. More information about the Pediatric Readiness Quality Improvement Collaborative is at  Additional questions can be directed to

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Announcements from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy

September 20, 2017

What’s New

Combating the Opioid Epidemic.  Last week, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) awarded more than $200 million to health centers and rural health organizations in every state to increase access to substance abuse and mental health services.  More than $3 million of these funds will support programs in the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy:  the Rural Health Opioid Program supports collaboration at the community level to find individuals with opioid use disorder and direct them into treatment; and the Substance Abuse Treatment Telehealth Network Grant Program allows treatment providers to cover a wider geographic region. Use the Find Grants Tool (“Grants-Awarded” under Data by Topic) at the HRSA Data Warehouse to learn more about the rural organizations awarded by FORHP.

The Geography of HIV.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a map showing that, while the majority of HIV diagnoses in the U.S. are in urban areas, there are parts of the country where the rates are surprisingly high for suburban and rural areas.  These include the South, where 23% of new HIV diagnoses are suburban/rural, and the Midwest where the number is 20%.  CDC provides fast facts with the map, indicating that geography is only one factor creating challenges for prevention, treatment and care.

Funding Opportunities

Small Rural Hospital Transition Project – October 16.  Nine rural hospitals will be selected to receive on-site technical assistance for the transition to value-based care and Alternative Payment Models.  Applicants may select either a financial operational assessment or quality improvement project.  Preview questions in advance of the application period opening September 25th and get helpful hints for submitting a successful application.

Federal Investment in Rural Transportation – October 16. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) will provide $500 million in federal funding for transportation infrastructure projects that spur local economies.  The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program reserves no less than $100 million for rural and tribal communities, with special consideration to projects improving access to reliable, safe, and affordable rural transportation. DOT funded nine rural TIGER projects in 2016, including a safer, less congested main street in Live Oak, CA and improved access to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Walland, TN. Consider contributing to TIGER projects by helping eligible applicants describe how better transportation choices and access to care can improve health and quality of life. To learn more about how to submit a successful application, including a special session for rural and tribal applicants, register for the 2017 TIGER webinar series.

Loan Repayment for Health Disparities Research – November 15.  The National Institutes of Health will pay up to $35,000 toward health profession education loans in exchange for a two-year commitment to research health disparities populations, including rural, Native American/Alaska Natives and those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged.

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CMS Reveals New Medicare Card Design: Removing Social Security numbers strengthens fraud protections for about 58 million Americans

September 15, 2017

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
Room 352-G
200 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20201


September 14, 2017
Contact: CMS Media Relations
(202) 690-6145 | CMS Media Inquiries
En español

CMS Reveals New Medicare Card Design

Removing Social Security numbers strengthens fraud protections for about 58 million Americans

Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) gave the public its first look at the newly designed Medicare card. The new Medicare card contains a unique, randomly-assigned number that replaces the current Social Security-based number.

CMS will begin mailing the new cards to people with Medicare benefits in April 2018 to meet the statutory deadline for replacing all existing Medicare cards by April 2019. In addition to today’s announcement, people with Medicare will also be able to see the design of the new Medicare card in the 2018 Medicare & You Handbook. The handbooks are being mailed and will arrive throughout September.

“The goal of the initiative to remove Social Security numbers from Medicare cards is to help prevent fraud, combat identify theft, and safeguard taxpayer dollars,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “We’re very excited to share the new design.”

CMS has assigned all people with Medicare benefits a new, unique Medicare number, which contains a combination of numbers and uppercase letters. People with Medicare will receive a new Medicare card in the mail, and will be instructed to safely and securely destroy their current Medicare card and keep their new Medicare number confidential. Issuance of the new number will not change benefits that people with Medicare receive.

Healthcare providers and people with Medicare will be able to use secure look-up tools that will allow quick access to the new Medicare numbers when needed. There will also be a 21-month transition period where doctors, healthcare providers, and suppliers will be able to use either their current SSN-based Medicare Number or their new, unique Medicare number, to ease the transition.

This initiative takes important steps towards protecting the identities of people with Medicare. CMS is also working with healthcare providers to answer their questions and ensure that they have the information they need to make a successful transition to the new Medicare number. For more information, please visit: