Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Announcements

March 11, 2021

HHS to Invest $250 Million for COVID-19 Response in Underserved Communities. On Monday, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services announced a community-level program for vulnerable populations, including those in rural areas, and racial and ethnic minorities. The new initiative – Advancing Health Literacy to Enhance Equitable Community Responses to COVID-19 – is expected to fund approximately 30 projects in urban communities and 43 projects in rural communities (as defined by the Rural Health Grants Eligibility Analyzer) for two years to encourage COVID-19 safety and vaccination. Applications are due on April 20th. Eligibility is limited to local municipalities, with consideration given for localities with high social vulnerability.

Deadline Extended for CMS Rural Transformation Project. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has extended the application due date for its new, rural-focused Community Health Access and Rural Transformation (CHART) Model Community Transformation Track to May 11. Optional Letters of Intent are due April 13. This voluntary payment model, the first of its kind from the CMS Innovation Center, will test whether upfront investments, predictable capitated payments, and operational and regulatory flexibilities will enable rural health care providers to improve access to care while reducing health care costs. Selected participants will have 15 months to collaborate with local partners and develop a Community Transformation Plan.

AHRQ Data Request: Improving Rural Health Through Telehealth-Guided Provider-to-Provider Communication. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) is seeking published and unpublished scientific information to inform their review of this subject. Key questions in the review include those about the effectiveness of provider-to-provider telehealth and about effective implementation strategies. Submit information to AHRQ’s Evidence-Based Practice Centers Program on or before April 1.

ERS on COVID-19 and Rural America. The Economic Research Service (ERS) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture analyzes county-level data on the prevalence of COVID-19 and local employment rates. A second report takes a closer look at the impact on counties where meatpacking accounts for more than 20 percent of employment.

CRS on Broadband Provisions passed by Congress. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) provides objective policy and legal analysis to committees and members of the U.S. House and Senate. This report provides information on each federal program included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, designed to increase broadband availability for underserved areas of the United States.

ONC Reports on Interoperability of Electronic Health Records. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) published a data brief examining rates of interoperability by hospital size, type, method of interoperability, and suburban-urban status.

Share Your Thoughts and Opinions on Health – Respond by March 15. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is seeking English-speaking people living in rural areas to participate in virtual discussions about health. The purpose of these discussions is to obtain consumer feedback on newly developed health materials. HRSA is open to speaking with individuals from diverse backgrounds. Sessions will be held in March and May via Zoom and will last approximately 90 minutes. All who participate will receive monetary token of appreciation. If you or someone you know may be interested, please have them contact Heidi.Palacios@SchlesingerGroup.com or call (972) 503-3100 x- 407. Feedback from rural populations will help HRSA create easy to understand health materials for everyone.