HHS Awards Over $32 Million in American Rescue Plan Funding to Expand COVID-19 Training and Support for Health

April 29, 2021

Thanks to the American Rescue Plan (ARP), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), awarded over $32 million to 122 organizations that provide training and technical assistance (T/TA) support to HRSA Health Center Program-supported health centers nationwide. These organizations—Primary Care Associations (PCAs), National Training and Technical Assistance Partners (NTTAPs), and Health Center Controlled Networks (HCCNs)—will use the funds to provide health centers with critical COVID-19-related T/TA and health information technology support. Read the press release.

Award recipients will have 60 days to submit information about planned activities and costs to be supported by the funding. Award recipients should add these grants to their HRSA Electronic Handbooks (EHBs) portfolio to view and complete the submission in EHBs. Visit the ARP funding for T/TA partners TA webpages for award submission guidance, information about the upcoming question and answer sessions for recipients, and more.

ARP Funding for PCAs

ARP Funding for NTTAPs

ARP Funding for HCCNs

Mark your calendar for these upcoming question and answer sessions.

ARP for PCAs
Friday, May 14
1:00-2:00 PM CT
Join the day of the session
If you prefer to join by phone: 833-568-8864
When prompted, enter webinar ID: 160 932 5940

Monday, May 17
1:30-2:30 PM CT
Join the day of the session
If you prefer to join by phone: 833-568-8864
When prompted, enter webinar ID: 161 446 1390

Tuesday, May 11
2:00-3:00 PM CT
Join the day of the session
If you prefer to join by phone: 833-568-8864
When prompted, enter webinar ID: 161 677 9160

Webinar: Learn How to Build COVID-19 Vaccine Confidence

Date: May 13, 2021

Time: 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM CDT

Register: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/6555661473692736014

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Office of Minority Health (CMS OMH) will host a Building COVID-19 Vaccine Confidence webinar.

Dr. LaShawn McIver, Director of CMS OMH, will share information and resources to help you address vaccine hesitancy in your community. Dr. McIver will be joined by Dr. Peter Marks, Director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER) at the Food ad Drug Administration, who will give an overview of vaccines and their safety. This webinar will equip you to speak persuasively about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Following the presentation, attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions and share ideas related to vaccine confidence.

Please note: You will receive an email with login information from GoToWebinar upon registration. If you do not receive an email in a few days’ time, please contact CMSOMHTeam@ketchum.com.

Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Announcement

April 29, 2021

Comments Requested: Proposed Changes to Medicare Payments to Hospitals – June 28. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released proposed updates to how Medicare reimburses acute care hospitals, Long-Term Acute Care Hospitals, and Critical Access Hospitals. There are proposals on how to implement new Graduate Medicare Education (GME) provisions in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, including how to distribute additional GME slots for rural residency training programs. The proposed rule also includes two Requests for Information: one on ways to attain health equity for all patients, and the other on the use of Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) standards to digitally submit quality information.

Population Health in Rural America in 2020: Proceedings of a Workshop. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report their findings on rural demographics and social determinants of health, data challenges, tribal health, and rural health policy. The next workshop, taking place in June, will examine the relationship between civic engagement and health equity.

NCHS Data Brief: Influenza Vaccination Rates for Children, 2019. The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) finds that just over one-half of children in the United States aged 6 months through 17 years had an influenza vaccination during the year studied. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates there were more than 45,000 flu-related hospitalizations, and more than 400 deaths, for children and youth during the 2018-2019 influenza season. Across all age groups (6 months to 4 years; 5-11 years; 12-17 years), children living in rural areas had the lowest influenza vaccination coverage.

Webinar: $1 Billion Health Center Capital Funding Opportunity Announced

Date: May 6, 2021

Time: 1:30 PM – 3:00 PM CST

Click here to join the Day of Session!

Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is announcing the availability of $1 billion for Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)-Health Center Program funded health centers to support major construction and renovation projects across the country. The funding builds on President Biden’s commitment to ensuring equity in access to COVID-19 response efforts and high quality primary health care services.

Health centers that receive this funding will be able to use it for COVID-19 related capital needs and to construct new facilities, renovate and expand existing facilities, and purchase new equipment. Read the press release.

Applications are due in HRSA’s Electronic Handbooks (EHBs) by 5:00 p.m. ET on Thursday, June 24. Visit the American Rescue Plan funding for Health Center Construction and Capital Improvements technical assistance (TA) webpage for award submission guidance, information about upcoming question and answer sessions, and other resources.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Daily Digest Bulletin

April 23, 2021

Building Strong Community Partnerships to Address Social Needs – Insights from the Accountable Health Communities Model

The Accountable Health Communities (AHC) Model encourages organizations to align community partners and health systems to address health related social needs. CMS recently released a case study, Building Strong Community Partnerships to Address Social Needs (PDF), that highlights how one organization, Health Net of West Michigan, leverages its advisory board and partnerships to achieve this goal. The case study includes successful strategies for engaging community members, partnering across sectors, structuring advisory board meetings, and taking evidence-based action.

Additional information about the AHC Model can be found on the Model’s webpage


Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Daily Digest Bulletin

April 28, 2021

CMS Proposes to Enhance the Medical Workforce in Rural and Underserved Communities to Support COVID-19 Recovery and Beyond

Proposed rule would require hospitals to report vaccination rates among health care staff

On April 27, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a proposed rule (CMS-1752-P) for inpatient and long-term care hospitals that builds on the Biden Administration’s key priorities to close health care equity gaps and provide greater accessibility to care. Major provisions in the proposed rule would fund medical residency positions in hospitals in rural and underserved communities to address workforce shortages and require hospitals to report COVID-19 vaccination rates among their workers to contain the spread of the virus.

CMS recognizes the importance of encouraging more health professionals to work in rural hospitals and underserved areas and the need to retain and train high-quality physicians to help address access to health care in these communities. In accordance with the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, CMS is proposing to distribute 1,000 additional physician residency slots to qualifying hospitals, phasing in 200 slots per year over five years. CMS estimates that the additional funding for these additional residency slots, once fully phased in, will total approximately $0.3 billion each year to fund medical residency positions in hospitals to address the workforce shortages.

“Hospitals are often the backbone of rural communities – but the COVID-19 pandemic has hit rural hospitals hard, and too many are struggling to stay afloat,” said the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra. “This rule will give hospitals more relief and additional tools to care for COVID-19 patients, and it will also bolster the health care workforce in rural and underserved communities. The Biden Administration is committed to expanding health equity in communities across the country, especially in rural America.”

Consistent with President Biden’s Executive Order 13985 on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government, CMS is also committed to addressing significant and persistent inequities in health outcomes in the U.S. through improving data collection to better measure and analyze disparities across programs and policies. In this proposed rule, CMS is soliciting feedback on opportunities to leverage diverse sets of data (race, Medicare/Medicaid dual eligible status, disability status, LGTBQ+, socioeconomic status, etc.) and new methodological approaches to advance equity through the quality measurement and value-based purchasing programs.

The rule also proposes to implement section 9831 of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to permanently reinstate the imputed floor-wage-index for all-urban States for FY 2022.

Additionally, the rule proposes to update Medicare Fee-for-Service payment rates and policies for acute care inpatient hospitals and long-term care hospitals for fiscal year 2022. CMS estimates total Medicare spending on acute care inpatient hospital services will increase by about $2.5 billion in fiscal year 2022.

Strengthening COVID-19 Ongoing Response

In November 2020, CMS established the New COVID-19 Treatments Add-on Payment (NCTAP) to mitigate any potential financial disincentives for hospitals to provide new COVID-19 treatments during the Public Health Emergency (PHE). The proposed rule would extend the NCTAP for certain eligible technologies through the end of the fiscal year in which the PHE ends.

In addition, the proposed rule seeks to strengthen the ongoing response to the PHE and future health threats by leveraging meaningful measures for quality programs. CMS is proposing the adoption of the COVID-19 Vaccination Coverage among Healthcare Personnel (HCP) Measure to require hospitals to report COVID-19 vaccinations of workers in their facilities. This proposed measure is designed to assess whether hospitals are taking steps to limit the spread of COVID-19 among their workforce, reduce the risk of transmission within their facilities, help sustain the ability of hospitals to continue serving their communities through the PHE, and assess the nation’s long-term recovery and readiness efforts.

Additionally, CMS is proposing to modify the Promoting Interoperability program requirements for eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals to expand reporting within the Public Health and Clinical Data Exchange Objective. The proposal would require hospitals to report on all four of the following measures: Syndromic Surveillance Reporting, Immunization Registry Reporting, Electronic Case Reporting, and Electronic Reportable Laboratory Result Reporting.

Requiring hospitals to report these four measures would help to prepare public health agencies to respond to future health threats and a long-term COVID-19 recovery by strengthening public health functions, including early warning surveillance, case surveillance, and vaccine uptake, which will increase the information available to help hospitals better serve their patients. Requiring these measures would enable nationwide syndromic surveillance for early warning of emerging outbreaks and threats; automated case and laboratory reporting for rapid public health response; and local and national visibility on immunization uptake so public health can tailor vaccine distribution strategies.

More Information:

Demographics and Disability Status of Adults Living Alone in Rural Areas

April 27, 2021

Click here to view more.

Living alone is increasingly common across the U.S. It is also associated with poorer health outcomes and greater risks of loneliness and social isolation. However, less is known about how the demographic and health characteristics of adults living alone varies by rural/urban location.

This brief addresses this gap by examining how the types of people who live alone differ between urban and rural areas, focusing on differences in age and disability status.

Contact Information:

Carrie Henning-Smith, PhD, MPH, MSW
University of Minnesota Rural Health Research Center
Phone: 612.626.4512


BPHC Bulletin: FDA and CDC Lift Recommended Pause on Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 Vaccine

Date: April 27, 2021

1:00 PM-2:00 PM CST

Click here to Join the day of the session

Following a thorough safety review, including two meetings of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and CDC have determined that the recommended pause regarding the use of the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. should be lifted and use of the vaccine should resume.

The full media advisory recommends that providers, vaccine recipients, and vaccine caregivers review these revised resources:

CDC’s Clinician Outreach and Communication Activity (COCA) Call will present the latest evidence on thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) after administration of the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccine. Speakers will discuss information on TTS and updated vaccine recommendations.