Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Announcements

February 18, 2021

CDC National Forum on COVID-19 Vaccine – February 22-24, 2021. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will hold a virtual event over three days to promote the most effective strategies for building confidence and increasing access to the vaccine nationwide. Community health stakeholders including pharmacies, labor associations, faith-based organizations, and academic institutions are encouraged to attend and hear from leaders at every level of government and across sectors.

Extended Public Comment Period for FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) continues to seek public comment on the metrics that should be used to evaluate applications for Round 2 of the COVID-19 Telehealth Program and how the FCC should treat applications filed during initial funding rounds. In January 2021, the FCC announced an additional $250 million for the program that was established in April 2020 and set a deadline of January 19 for comments. That deadline has been lifted and the FCC will continue to accept comments at any time. 

CDC: Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Pandemic-Related Stress.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that Hispanic adults reported a higher prevalence of symptoms of depression during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Estimates of self-reported suicidal thoughts/ideation among Hispanic persons (22.9%) were four times those among non-Hispanic Black (Black) persons (5.2%) and White persons (5.3%) and approximately twice those of multiracial and non-Hispanic persons of other races/ethnicities (8.9%).

CDC: Trends in Drug and Synthetic Opioid Overdose Deaths. In the February 12, 2021, issue of its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report an increase in overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone, cocaine, and psychostimulants. During the period studied, 2013 – 2019, synthetic opioid deaths largely consisted of illicitly manufactured fentanyl. In 2019, a total of 70,630 drug overdose deaths occurred, an increase of 4.3 percent over deaths in 2018.

Report: Emergency Medical Services Personnel (EMS) as Vaccinators. The National Association of State EMS Officials reports on state-level policy that allows paramedics and other first-responders to administer vaccines.

NGA: Supporting a Trained Direct Care Workforce During and After the Pandemic. The National Governor’s Association (NGA) reports on waivers issued by states and by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to address staffing challenges during the public health emergency. The NGA explains these, including temporary adjustments to training requirements, and presents strategies for retaining this workforce when the waivers expire.

MACPAC: Medicaid’s Role in Health Care for AI/AN. The Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) is a nonpartisan agency in the legislative branch that analyzes policy and makes recommendations to federal and state-level policymakers. In this report, MACPAC provides an overview of the federal government’s role in providing health care to American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN), including the structure of the Indian Health Service and the special Medicaid rules and protections that apply to AI/AN beneficiaries and Indian health providers.