Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP) Announcements

Date: May 26, 2022

Preparing for Medicaid/CHIP Unwinding. In March 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) temporarily waived certain eligibility requirements for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to help people keep their health coverage during the pandemic. However, with the public health emergency ending, states will soon be required to restart eligibility reviews for this public health insurance covering more than 83 million beneficiaries of Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Plan. Nearly a quarter of individuals under age 65 who live in rural areas are covered by Medicaid. When the eligibility waivers end, some estimates count up to 15 million people will lose their coverage through a process called “unwinding.” To help states prepare for the change, CMS will host a monthly learning series from May through October of this year. The Communications Toolkit, linked in the headline above, has information to help beneficiaries understand the steps to renew their coverage.

White House and HRSA on Test-to-Treat for COVID-19 –  Wednesday, June 1 at 2:00 pm ET. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) invites you to join a webinar to share the White House’s call to action around Test-to-Treat as a strategy to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. The webinar will feature HRSA Administrator Carole Johnson and White House COVID-19 Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha as well as a moderated panel exploring safety-net provider perspectives.  If you prefer to join by phone: 833-568-8864; Webinar ID: 161 896 3980.

The Implications of Long COVID for Rural Communities. Researchers from the Center for Rural Health Research at East Tennessee State University report that higher rates of infection and lagging vaccinations mean that the lingering effects, now called long COVID, are likely to have a disproportionate effect on rural communities. While symptoms and severity of long COVID can range from mild to severe, the potential impact on mental health, social function, and the ability to keep working can be substantial. Watch a presentation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on evaluating and supporting patients with cognitive symptoms following COVID.

Updated Chartbook Focuses on Rural Border Health. With facts and figures about health status, behavioral risk factors, mortality, and access to care, the resource aims to inform rural health policy for four states – Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas – along the U.S. southern border. The chartbook is a collaboration between the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP)-supported Rural & Minority Health Research Center and the National Rural Health Association.

Answer the call: 988 Lifeline Suicide & Crisis Network Jobs. On July 16, 2022, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) will transition to an easy-to-remember, 3-digit number (988). To strengthen and expand the existing network of over 200 locally operated and funded crisis centers across the country, the Lifeline suicide & crisis network is looking to bring on new volunteers and paid employees to receive training to answer calls, chats, and texts from people in crisis. Since 1999, suicide rates in rural areas have been consistently higher than those in metropolitan areas.

Updated Guidance on COVID-19 Booster Shots. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommended a booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11 who completed their primary vaccination more than five months ago. The booster shot is 10 micrograms, the same dosage as the primary series for this age group. The CDC also strengthened its recommendation that those 12 and older who are immunocompromised and those 50 and older should receive a second booster dose at least four months after their first. Visit COVID.gov to find nearby locations for masks, testing, vaccines, and treatment. 

CMS Advancing Rural Maternal Health Equity. The Office of Minority Health at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) provides a high-level summary of its Rural Maternal Health Initiative implemented between June 2019 and November 2021. The effort comes from the CMS Rural Health initiative, established in 2016 to meet the needs specific to these areas.

Heat-Related Illness: Know the Signs. As temperatures rise, the newly formed federal Office of Climate Change and Health Equity is tracking areas of the country expected to experience a high number of extremely hot days over the next few months. The health impacts of a heat wave like the one that hit states in the Northwest last summer, go beyond dehydration and heat stroke to include: increased hospitalizations for heart disease, worsening asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and even an increase in violence, crime, and suicide. Last month, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services awarded $385 million to help households lower cooling and heating costs. Learn more online about the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

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 $1.2 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.