Announcements from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy

March 8, 2017

What’s New

National Committee Reports on Social Determinants of Health.  The National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Human Services delivered its most recent policy brief to the Secretary of HHS, reporting on the broad range of factors that affect health outcomes in rural areas.  The committee examined these factors – poverty, access to services, economic opportunity, rates of chronic disease, homelessness, domestic violence, life expectancy – and reports that there are distinct rural considerations that policymakers must keep in mind.  Members of the committee will discuss their report in a 60-minute webinar hosted by the Rural Health Information Hub next Tuesday, March 14.

CMS State Innovation Models.  The State Innovation Models (SIM) Initiative supports state governments with funding and technical assistance allowing them to design and test strategies that meet the goals of higher quality/lower cost health care delivery in a way that’s tailored to the needs of their state’s residents. Through two rounds of funding, the SIM Initiative has created federal-state partnerships with 34 states, three territories and the District of Columbia.  CMS has considered input from many rural stakeholders in shaping the initiative and earlier this year, announced the Pennsylvania Rural Health Model as one that potentially creates predictable funding to cover services for rural hospitals.

Rural Poverty and Well-being.  USDA’s Economic Research Service expands on its annual Rural America at a Glance with a more focused look at the economic, social and demographic factors that affect income and poverty of rural residents and their participation in Federal assistance programs.

Funding Opportunities

Community Development Financial Institutions Program – March 24.  Organizations certified by the Community Development Financial Institution Fund (CDFI) are eligible to apply for financial products and services that meet the unique needs of economically underserved communities.  The program offers loans with flexible terms and lower interest rates for capital that may be used to construct or renovate real estate, including community facilities such as hospitals, clinics, and health care centers.  The CDFI Program is also accepting applications through March 24 for economic development funding in Native American communities.

Funding for Achieving Health Equity – March 31. The HHS Office of Minority Health (OMH) is currently accepting applications for its Partnerships to Achieve Health Equity program. For five years beginning July 1, OMH will grant $325,000 to $400,000 per year to as many as 14 organizations to establish multi-partner collaborations to address social determinants of health. Eligible applicants include hospitals, research institutions, community-based organizations, and other nonprofit agencies, among others. This program may prove an exciting opportunity for organizations from the Rural Health Philanthropy Partnership who participated in the January 2017 Rural Health Equity Leadership workshop.

National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program – April 6.  Primary care medical, dental and mental and behavioral health clinicians can receive up to $50,000 to repay their health profession student loans in exchange for a two-year commitment to work at NHSC-approved sites in high-need, underserved areas. The payment is free from Federal income tax and is made at the beginning of service so you can more quickly pay down your loans.

Regional Telehealth Resource Center Program May 2.  Up to 12 public and/or private non-profit organizations will each receive up to $325,000 per year for three years to provide expert and customized telehealth technical assistance to providers who serve rural and medically underserved populations. Regional Telehealth Resource Centers (RTRCs) provide training and support, disseminate research findings, promote effective collaboration, and foster the use of telehealth technologies to provide health care information and education. It is expected that RTRCs will share expertise through individual consultations, training, webinars, conference presentations, and a significant web presence.  In addition, two organizations each will be awarded up to $325,000 per year for 3 years in the National Telehealth Resource Center Program, which supports the 12 RTRCs with shared expertise, consultations and training in telehealth policy and technology. On Tuesday March 21, 2017 from 3:00pm-4:00pm ET, FORHP will host a technical assistance webinar to assist with applications for both programs.  Please contact Natassja Manzanero at to ask questions or receive instructions for dialing in.

Policy Updates

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Comment: Requirements for Home Health Beneficiaries – April 3. CMS has issued an emergency information collection request to enforce rules and standards designed to ensure home health agencies (HHAs) protect the health and safety of beneficiaries, such as providing a notice of rights to patients and assuring the proper training of home health aides prior hands-on care. State surveyors and MACs will use this information to ensure compliance with the Medicare conditions of participation and to ensure the quality of home health care. For rural-serving HHAs, which are often already struggling to meet federal requirements, CMS estimates its information collection will require roughly 473 hours of information collection per HHA per year, on average.

Episode Payment Models (EPMs) Delayed.  On February 17, CMS announced that the effective date of the Episode Payment Models has been delayed per the Executive Memorandum of January 20, 2017.  These models were to become effective on February 18, 2017, but the effective date is now March 21, 2017. The final rule, published in January, implements three new episode payment models, a Cardiac Rehabilitation (CR) Incentive Payment model, and changes to the existing Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement model. Under the three new episode payment models, acute care hospitals in select geographic areas will participate in retrospective episode payment models targeting care for Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries, and care provided within 90 days of discharge (which may occur in rural areas) will be included in the episode of care.

Resources, Learning Events and Technical Assistance

Rural Behavioral Health Series: Depression in Mothers – Wednesday, March 8, 3:00 – 4:30 pm ET.  The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has partnered with experts in maternal and child health to create a toolkit for helping new mothers with depression.  The Rural Behavioral Health Webinar Series will provide a rural perspective on behavioral health issues throughout the year.

CMS Rural Open Door Forum – March 9 at 2:00 pm ET.  CMS will host a rural open door forum on the 2017 MIPS participation, Chronic Care Management Campaign update, Data submission deadline for the Medicare EHR Incentive Program; and Upcoming Hospital IQR Program data submission deadlines.  See the agenda for dial-in information.

Connecting to Chronic Care Management Services – Wednesday, March 15 at 3:00 pm ET.   The CMS Office of Minority Health (OMH) and the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy invite you to attend this hour-long webinar providing overview of the new campaign to help health care consumers and providers understand benefits and resources for chronic care management services.  To inform partners and stakeholders about Connected Care: The Chronic Care Management Services Resource initiative kicking off this month, experts will discuss the prevalence of chronic conditions (one in four adults has two or more), the elements of this campaign to raise awareness, and ways that your organization can partner with us to spread the word.

Approaching Deadlines

Request for MedPAC Nominations – March 10
Physician Quality Reporting Deadline Extended – March 13
New Deadline for Hospital Data Submission – March 13

Broadband Service for Rural Communities – March 13
EHR Attestation Deadline Extended – March 13
Community Development Financial Institutions Program – March 24
Native American CDFI Funding – March 24

Area Health Education Centers – March 29
USDA Invests in Rural Business DevelopmentMarch 31
Funding for Achieving Health Equity – March 31
AI/AN Health Equity Initiative – April 3
SeniorCorps Retired and Senior Volunteer Programs (RSVP) – April 4
NHSC Loan Repayment Program – April 6
Prevention of Opioid Misuse in Women – April 7

Community Facilities Program – Ongoing