Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Announcements

Date: September 30, 2021

New COVID-19 Provider Funding Application Portal Open through October 26As of September 29, health care providers can apply for $25.5 billion in provider relief funds. The package includes $8.5 billion in American Rescue Plan (ARP) resources for those who serve rural patients covered by Medicare, Medicaid, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and $17 billion for Provider Relief Fund (PRF) Phase 4 for a broad range of providers experiencing changes in operating revenues and expenses. Providers may apply for both programs with a single application, and applications must be completed and submitted by October 26 at 11:59 p.m. ETHRSA will host four technical assistance webinars for applicants starting on Thursday, Sept 30. 

CDC: State of Vaccination Confidence. (pdf) This is the 15th report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on how Americans think and feel about COVID-19 vaccination. Following the September 9th announcement of an action plan to boost vaccination rates, news reports and social media conversations varied widely: one poll found that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval increased vaccine confidence, while some local news outlets and surveys reported no change in the number of people getting vaccinated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report was issued on September 13, almost two weeks before the FDA amended their emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to allow a single booster dose for certain persons at high risk for contracting the virus.

CDC: Trends in Death Rates, 1999-2019. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that death rates for both men and women over the ten-year period were higher in rural areas than urban, and the differences widened over the period. The greatest differences between rural and urban were deaths due to heart disease (189.1 per 100,000 compared with 156.3), cancer (164.1 compared with 142.8), and chronic lower respiratory disease (52.5 compared with 35.4).

Comments Requested: Measuring Quality in Rural Telehealth – Respond by October 8. For more than five years, the National Quality Forum (NQF) has worked with staff and other partners of the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy to develop a rural-specific framework for measuring the performance of healthcare via telehealth. The NQF requests comment from the public on their draft framework (pdf) that covers five domains: 1) access to care and technology; 2) costs, business models, and logistics; 3) experience; 4) effectiveness; and 5) equity that calls for rural-specific measurement of quality.

HHS Inspector General Reports on Use of Crisis Teams by Indian Health Service During Pandemic. The Office of Inspector General (OIG) at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) reviews more than 100 federal programs in an effort to fight waste, fraud, and abuse. This report examines the first five deployments of Critical Care Response Teams to American Indian and Alaska Native communities from June through September 2020.

DEA Alert on increase in Deadly Drugs.  The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a rare public safety warning about fake prescription pills containing fentanyl and methamphetamine. DEA laboratory testing reveals a dramatic rise in the number of pills containing at least two milligrams of fentanyl, which is considered a lethal dose. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that, in 2019, drug deaths involving psychostimulants such as methamphetamine were higher in rural counties; the most recent provisional count of deaths across the U.S. shows a 30 percent year-over-year increase in overdose deaths.

Kaiser Family Foundation on Housing and Internet Access. The national nonprofit for health policy used the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to examine housing adequacy, affordability, and internet access for those enrolled in Medicaid, the federal/state program for health care that covers nearly one in four (24%) nonelderly individuals in rural areas.