Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Announcement

Date: November 24, 2021

Reports for Round One of Provider Relief Funding Due by November 30. Providers who received funds prior to June 30, 2020 still have time to complete their reporting until this coming Tuesday, November 30. Providers who fail to meet this deadline will be required to return their PRF payments by December 30, 2021.

American Rescue Plan Includes $7.5 Billion in Rural Payments. On November 23rd, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) began distributing $7.5 billion in American Rescue Plan (ARP) Rural payments to health care providers and suppliers who serve rural Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program, and Medicare patients. More than 40,000 providers are receiving payments. Many ARP Rural payment recipients will also be eligible for additional funding through the $17 billion Provider Relief Fund (PRF) Phase 4 opportunity that used the same application; Phase 4 payments will be announced in the coming weeks. Health care organizations can use these payments to make up for the lost revenues and increased expenses caused by the pandemic.

CMS Focuses on Rural Health. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) added two new reports to its Rural Health Strategy to achieve health equity for rural, frontier, tribal, and island communities. Improving Health in Rural Communities: FY 2021 Year in Review (pdf) outlines CMS’ activities in 10 focus areas that include: payment and policy for Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program; maternal health; mental health and substance use disorders; and COVID-19. Examining Rural Hospital Bypass for Outpatient Services (pdf) explores what happens to financial viability when patients seek services beyond their local facilities and providers. 

Annual Rural America at a Glance: 2021 Edition. Each year, the Economic Research Service (ERS) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports on population and economic trends in rural areas. This edition focuses on factors affecting the resiliency and recovery of rural communities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, including population and employment change, intensity of infection, vaccination rates, and broadband internet availability and adoption. Last week, ERS economist Elizabeth Dobis presented the findings in an hour-long webinar that is available for viewing. 

Ongoing: HRSA Payment Program for RHC Buprenorphine-Trained Providers. In June 2021, HRSA launched an effort to improve access to substance use disorder treatment by paying for providers who are waivered to prescribe buprenorphine, a medication used to treat opioid use disorder. Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) still have the opportunity to apply for a $3,000 payment on behalf of each provider who trained to obtain the waiver necessary to prescribe buprenorphine after January 1, 2019. Approximately $1.5 million in program funding remains available for RHCs and will be paid on a first-come, first-served basis until funds are exhausted. Send questions to DATA2000WaiverPayments@hrsa.gov. There is ongoing availability of a free online course for waiver eligibility training from the American Osteopathic Academy of Addiction Medicine and the Providers Clinical Support System.