Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Announcements

January 22, 2021

Comments Requested:  Proposed Changes to OMB Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) Delineations – March 20.  The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) seeks public input on their recommendations for changing the delineations for metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas, including whether the minimum urban area threshold population to qualify as an MSA should increase from 50,000 to 100,000.  The OMB MSA delineations are used for a variety of purposes including identifying rural populations for research, Medicare reimbursement policies and allocation of Federal program resources.

HHS: Viral Hepatitis National Strategic Plan.  The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) reports that, despite effective vaccines and treatment, “the nation faces unprecedented hepatitis A outbreaks, progress on preventing hepatitis B has stalled, and hepatitis C rates nearly tripled from 2011 to 2018.”  The report identifies higher rates of substance use disorder, injection drug use, and homelessness as factors in the increase. 

RAND: Evidence-Based Recommendations for Transforming the U.S. Mental Health System.  The RAND Corporation is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization that researches and analyzes public policy.  In this report, RAND makes frequent reference to rural needs among 15 policy recommendations for reimbursement, workforce development, and telehealth services, among other topics. 


2021 NOSORH Grant Writing Institute – Registration Open

Registration is now open for the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH) Grant Writing Institute (GWI). GWI features a series of 9 online learning sessions covering every aspect of grant writing with a unique rural health focus. The series is intended for beginners seeking to gain the skills to research and draft winning proposals from various agencies.  

Registration deadline is February 26th. Group discounts are available.  Sign up 4 students get the 5th one free.  Click here to REGISTER NOW!

Click here for a flyer with detailed information on each session.

Please share this information with anyone interested in pursuing grant writing.

If you have any additional questions, contact Beth Kolf at bethk@nosorh.org

Nationwide Study Shows Continued Rise in Opioid Affected Births

January 12, 2021

A new study conducted by researchers at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) shows that the rates of pregnant women diagnosed with opioid use disorder and of babies born with withdrawal symptoms increased from 2010-2017. The study, published today in the Journal of American Medicine indicates that mothers with opioid-related diagnoses documented at delivery increased by 131%. Additionally, the incidence of babies born with withdrawal symptoms, known as neonatal abstinence syndrome or NAS, increased by 82% nationally over the same period. Increases were seen for nearly all states and demographic groups.

Read the release.

HHS Awards $90 Million to Support Health Centers in Addressing Hypertension Among Racial and Ethnic Minorities

January 19, 2021

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), awarded nearly $90 million in funding to 496 health centers across 48 states, the District of Columbia, Federated States of Micronesia, Puerto Rico, Palau, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. HRSA-funded health centers will use these funds to increase the number of patients diagnosed with hypertension who have controlled blood pressure.

The funds will support HRSA-funded health centers that could benefit the most from assistance to improve blood pressure control. The three-year project will include the use of self-measured blood pressure (SMBP) technology to increase the number of adult patients with controlled hypertension. SMBP, also known as home blood pressure monitoring, can improve access and quality of care for patients with hypertension while making blood pressure monitoring more convenient.

Read the release.

Funding: BHW Releases New Grants

Primary Care Training and Enhancement-Community Prevention and Maternal Health (PCTE-CPMH)  – The PCTE-CPMH program will increase the number of primary care physicians trained to provide maternal and obstetrical healthcare. Grantees will train physicians to improve maternal health outcomes in rural and underserved areas. Approximately $15.8 million will be available in FY 2021 to fund 26 grantees.
Application deadline: 2/22/2021.

Integrated Substance Use Disorder Training Program (ISTP) – The ISTP program will integrate mental health and substance use treatment services in primary care settings. Grantees will train practicing professionals to provide addiction prevention, treatment, and recovery services in underserved communities. Practicing professionals include the following disciplines: nurse practitioners, physician assistants, health service psychologists, and social workers. Approximately $6.5 million will be available in FY 2021 to fund two grantees. Application deadline: 2/24/2021.

Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training (BHWET) – The BHWET Program for Paraprofessionals will increase the number of peer support specialists and other behavioral health-related paraprofessionals in high need areas. Grantees will train students to work with children, adolescents, and transitional-aged youth at risk for behavioral health disorders. Approximately $16.3 million will be available in FY 2021 to fund 43 grantees.
Application deadline: 4/12/2021.

NHSC Loan Repayment Program Applicants Can Receive Award Preference

The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) continues to collaborate with Providers Clinical Support System (PCSS) to connect clinicians to free Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) training and professional development resources. Two NHSC Loan Repayment Programs (LRPs) – the NHSC SUD Workforce LRP and NHSC Rural Community LRP – give award preference to program applicants who have completed MAT training and obtained a DATA 2000 waiver. Sign up to be notified when the LRP application cycle opens in early 2021 and learn more about the MAT training.

COVID-19 Vaccine Information

How do RHCs bill for COVID-19 Vaccine Administration?

Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) will be reimbursed by Medicare for COVID-19 vaccine administration the same way we are reimbursed for flu and pneumococcal shots: a lump sum payment, based on vaccine administration costs as reported on the cost report. National Association of Rural Health Clinics (NARHC) has confirmed that reimbursement for vaccine administration to patients with Medicare Advantage will be treated the same way as traditional Medicare beneficiaries, meaning that RHCs will not bill for the vaccine administration for any Medicare patient but rather capture the costs of such vaccinations on their cost report.

In January, CMS provided some guidance on this issue HERE.

From CMS: COVID-19 Vaccines in RHCs and Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) – COVID-19 vaccines and their administration will be paid the same way influenza and pneumococcal vaccines and their administration are paid in RHCs and FQHCs. Influenza and pneumococcal vaccines and their administration are paid at 100 percent of reasonable cost through the cost report. The beneficiary coinsurance and deductible are waived. For additional information, please see https://www.cms.gov/covidvax.

What should providers do if they have more vaccine supply than demand?   Read More

NARHC Hosts Webinar on Modernization Policy

As part of H.R. 133, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (aka COVID Relief Package), Congress approved and the President signed into law the most comprehensive reforms of the Medicare Rural Health Clinic (RHC) payment methodology since the mid-90s. In this webinar, Bill Finerfrock, the Executive Director of National Association of Rural Health Clinics (NARHC), and Nathan Baugh, the Director of Government Affairs for NARHC, discuss these major changes in detail.

You can find slides & recording here. Read More