Announcements from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy

February 28, 2018

What’s New

HRSA Recognizes Rural Health Champions.  Today, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced seven rural community-based organizations for outstanding work through their grant programs funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy.  Visit to learn more about how these Rural Health Champions adopted sustainable, best-practice models for increasing access to health care.

CDC: Rural-Urban Differences in COPD.  In the most recent edition of its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) looked at 2015 data for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and found that prevalence, Medicare hospitalizations, and deaths were significantly higher among persons living in rural areas than among those living in micropolitan or metropolitan areas.  Higher burdens of COPD among rural residents highlight the need for continued tobacco cessation programs, policies to prevent COPD among smokers, improved access for adults with COPD to treatment strategies, and comprehensive chronic disease self-management programs.  Read the COPD National Action Plan developed by the National Institutes of Health to learn more about the strategy to reduce the burden of one of the leading causes of death in the U.S.

Overdose Death Data Visualization Tool.  The CDC updated 12-month counts for overdose deaths in each of the 50 states and District of Columbia.  The interactive tool provides the number of deaths for the 12-month period ending July of 2017 and graphs the percent change from the previous 12-months for each jurisdiction.  The National Vital Statistics Survey reported 66,972 deaths in the U.S. overall, up 14 percent from the previous year.  States with the highest increase in deaths include Pennsylvania with 43 percent more deaths, and Florida and Ohio each with a 39 percent increase.  Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture launched a new website for rural communities hit hard by the opioid epidemic, with grant programs and models for their use to help address the crisis.

Funding Opportunities

Grants for Drug-Free Communities – March 29.  The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will make approximately 120 awards of up to $125,000 per year to reduce and prevent substance abuse for youth aged 18 and under.  Eligible applicants are community-based organizations that have not previously received a Drug-Free Community grant, and must identify their service area as urban, suburban or rural.

Grants for Treatment and Recovery for Youth and Families – April 10.   SAMHSA seeks to expand geographical distribution of its 2018 Enhancement and Expansion of Treatment and Recovery Services for Adolescents, Transitional Aged Youth, and their Families grant program (Short Title:  Youth and Family TREE).  Eligible applicants include state and local governments, as well as tribal, community-based and faith-based organizations. The purpose of the program is to enhance and expand comprehensive treatment, early intervention, and recovery support services for adolescents (ages 12-18), transitional aged youth (ages 16-25), and their families/primary caregivers with substance use disorders (SUD) and/or co-occurring substance use and mental disorders.

Grants for Family Planning – May 24.  The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) expects to make 100 awards ranging from $150,000 to $22 million to public and private nonprofit organizations for family planning services.  Eligible applicants include faith-based organizations and American Indian/Alaska Native/Native American (AI/AN/NA) organizations.   HHS seeks a broad competition for Title X grant awards to provide a diversity of options for clients with the intention of improving overall service provision, increasing the number of clients served, and expanding the breadth of services available in the states, territories and throughout the regions.

Rural Health  Research

Distance and Networks: A Regional Analysis of Health Insurance Marketplaces. As of the fourth year of Health Insurance Marketplaces (HIMs), data have consistently indicated that issuer participation, numbers of plans available, premiums charged, and enrollment all can vary greatly by geographic region of the country and by rural and urban status. The purpose of this paper from the RUPRI Center for Rural Health Analysis is to examine whether rating area design and network adequacy standards may have contributed to the success of Health Insurance Marketplaces in terms of enrollment and/or affordability, or lack thereof in rural places. Using 2015-16 data on insurance issuer (or “firm”) participation, premiums, and enrollment success for 15 Midwestern states, the paper examines the possibility that geographic distance to care plays a role in this variation through its effect on network adequacy from several angles and attempts to assess the moderating role that state-level policies on network adequacy standards and Rating Area design may have.

Policy Updates

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CMS Invites Clinicians to Participate in MIPS Burden Study – March 23.  Clinicians participating in the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) of the Quality Payment Program may apply through March 23 to participate in a CMS study on the burdens associated with reporting MIPS quality measures in 2018.  CMS expects the study to start in April and run through March 2019. Participation in the study will count as an improvement activity under MIPS.  This is an opportunity for rural providers required to participate in MIPS to provide feedback on burden related to quality reporting.

Public Reporting of CAHPS® Hospice Survey Results Now AvailableIn 2015, nearly a quarter of all hospices in the US were in rural areas. Now rural patients, families, and providers can see how patients rated hospice services in their area and compare them to the national average by reviewing Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS®) Hospice Survey results, now available on the CMS Hospice Compare site.  The survey results include all Medicare-certified hospices that had at least 30 completed surveys during the reporting period of April 1, 2015 through March 31, 2017. Interactive datasets of the survey results are also available.

Resources, Learning Events and Technical Assistance

Health IT Usability for Hospitals – Thursday, March 1 at 2:00 pm ET.  The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) will give a preview of a new resource, the Usability Change Package, created to help health IT end users in hospital settings identify challenges to implementing electronic health record (EHR) technology, improve its usability and assess the impact of these system changes.  ONC defines usability as the extent to which a system supports a user to efficiently and effectively achieve desired goals.  The Usability Change Package specifically targets EHR implementers with medium-to-low resources and may be a help to rural providers.

Approaching Deadlines

Rural PREP Microresearch – March 1 (depending on funds)
Comments Requested: Medicare Advantage/Prescription Drug Plan Updates
– March 5
Comments Requested:  Labor Redefines Employer Health Plans – March 6
AHRQ Seeks Input on Quality Indicators – March 8
NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program – March 8
New Medicare Episode Payment Model – March 12
RWJF Change Leadership Programs – February 21 & March 14
MIPS Quality Data Reporting via CMS Web Interface – March 16
Rural Communities Healthy Out-of-School Time – March 16
Rural Health Clinic Policy and Assessment Program – March 16
Comments Requested: FDA Opioid Prescribing Guidelines – March 16
Abstracts for Rural Cancer Research – March 19
CMS Invites Clinicians to Participate in MIPS Burden Study – March 23
Indian Health Service Scholarship Program – March 28
Grants for Drug-Free Communities – March 29
MIPS Quality Data Reporting – March 31
Grants to Support Health Insurance Market in States – April 5
Grants for Treatment and Recovery for Youth and Families – April 10
Comments Requested: Changes to Short-Term, Limited Duration Health Insurance – April 23
Tribal-Researcher Capacity Building Grants – April 23
Guaranteed Loans for Rural Rental Housing – Ongoing through 2021
Drinking Water and Waste Disposal for Rural and Native Alaskan Villages – Ongoing
HIT Strategies for Patient-Reported Outcome Measures – Ongoing
HIT to Improve Health Care Quality and Outcomes – Ongoing
Community Facilities Program –  Ongoing
Summer Food Service Program – Ongoing