Announcements from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy
USDA State Fact Sheets. The Economic Research Service (ERS) at the US Department of Agriculture has released new State Fact Sheets that provide information on population, income, poverty, food security, education, employment, organic agriculture, farm characteristics, farm financial indicators, top commodities, and agricultural exports. Data are available for all States, and for metro/non-metro breakouts within States. Links to county-level data are provided where available. With this release, statistics on poverty, educational attainment, per capita income, and earnings per job have been updated with the latest available data.
New Federal Poverty Guidelines. HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) recently published the 2017 federal poverty guidelines to be used in determining eligibility in income-based Federal programs, including several that may affect the health and welfare of rural communities such as the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), Head Start, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Medicare subsidized prescription drug coverage. The Guidelines went into effect on January 26, 2017.
IHS Injury Prevention Program – February 26. The Indian Health Service (IHS) expects to make awards ranging from $10,000 – 25,000 to 15 Native American tribal organizations and/or Federally recognized tribal governments to build sustainable, effective injury prevention programs. According to the funding opportunity announcement, “injuries are the single leading cause of death for American Indians and Alaska Natives between the ages of 1 and 44 years.” Tribal organizations implementing the Injury Prevention Program will implement evidence-based, effective strategies scientifically proven to prevent injuries.
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Final Hospital Notice and Instructions – for implementation March 8. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) posted its final version of the Medicare Outpatient Observation Notice (MOON), which is a standard notice that all hospitals and critical access hospitals (CAHs) must issue (starting March 8) and explain to all Medicare beneficiaries receiving outpatient services for more than 24 hours. Under the Notice of Observation Treatment and Implication for Care Eligibility (NOTICE) Act of 2015, hospitals and CAHs must issue the MOON within 36 hours of the start of observation services, or sooner if the beneficiary is transferred, discharged, or admitted as an inpatient. The MOON informs beneficiaries that they are an outpatient receiving observation services, not an inpatient, and explains the associated implications for cost-sharing and eligibility for Medicare coverage of skilled nursing facility services. CMS also updated instructions for the MOON to address several issues, including formatting requirements, what to do when a beneficiary refuses to sign, and the intersection with applicable State laws. For instance, hospitals and CAHs may (1) deliver the MOON before the beneficiary receives 24 hours of observation services and/or (2) attach an additional page to the MOON in order to comply with any applicable state laws.
Request for Region 4 Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) – RHCs in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee have the opportunity to participate in an Accountable Care Organization (ACO) study via a phone interview. Researchers at the University of Central Florida’s College of Health and Public Affairs are conducting an NIH-funded study. As part of the study, they are conducting 20-minute phone interviews with RHC management who are knowledgeable about ACOs, but choose not to participate in them at this time. The purpose of the phone interviews is to gain a better understanding of impressions about how the ACO model is (or is not) meeting the needs of RHCs at this time. The opinions of RHC personnel are an important part of the study. If you are interested in participating in a phone interview on this topic, please contact the study lead investigator Dr. Judy Ortiz at Judith.Ortiz@ucf.edu.
CMS Requests Feedback on MIPS Virtual Groups: On a January 27 webinar on Virtual Groups in the Quality Payment Program (QPP), CMS requested participation on a user group to gather feedback on operational elements and other dynamics related to Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) virtual groups under the QPP. Individual MIPS eligible clinicians or a group consisting of not more than 10 MIPS eligible clinicians can elect to form a virtual group with at least one other such individual MIPS eligible clinician or group of not more than 10 MIPS eligible clinicians for a performance period of a year under the QPP. CMS will provide more details about virtual groups in future rulemaking; however, the user group provides an opportunity for rural eligible clinicians to provide input from a rural perspective. Those interested in participating on the user group should send an email to CMS at firstname.lastname@example.org. The MIPS user group for virtual groups in the QPP is expected to convene between February and May of 2017.
Resources, Learning Events and Technical Assistance
Application Assistance: AHEC Program – Tuesday, February 7 at 2:00 pm ET. The Area Health Education Centers Program aims to broaden the distribution of the health workforce to rural and underserved areas. HRSA’s Bureau of Health Workforce will hold the first of two technical assistance calls to provide assistance with funding applications due on March 29.
Webinar Series on Opioid Epidemic – Tuesday, February 7 at 3:00 pm ET. This three-part webinar series, The Opioid Epidemic: What Can We Do Differently?, is designed to help healthcare professionals of all disciplines better understand medical assisted treatment for opioid addiction, identify strategies to promote opioid use screening and abuse prevention, and learn more about diagnosing, counseling and safe practices for opioid prescribing.
Application Assistance: Opioid Help for Women – Thursday, February 9 from 1:00 to 3:00 pm ET. The HHS Office on Women’s Health will hold a technical assistance webinar for regional, State, local, and community organizations applying for federal funding to prevent opioid misuse in women. Letters of Intent are due next Thursday, February 16 and the application deadline is April 7. To RSVP, get dial-in information and submit questions in advance, send an email to Cheryl.Thompson@hhs.gov.
Addressing Behavioral Health for Seniors – Wednesday, February 15 from 1:00 – 2:30 pm ET. The SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions (CIHS) provides strategies for integrating behavioral health services into primary care. Next week, the CIHS will hold a free webinar to help primary care providers better understand the complex array of health, behavioral and social issues that should be addressed during clinical encounters with older adults.
Application Assistance: NURSE Corps Loan Repayment – Thursday, February 16 from 7:00 – 9:00 pm ET. NURSE Corps supports registered nurses, advanced practice registered nurses, and nurse faculty by paying up to 85 per cent of their unpaid nursing education debt. HRSA’s Bureau of Health Workforce will hold its second technical assistance call to provide help with applications due February 23.
Resource of the Week
Toolkit: Rural Access to Care for People with Disabilities. The Rural Health Information Hub has created a source of information and resources for community projects that reach people with disabilities. The seven module toolkit provides evidence-based strategies for planning and implementation, evaluation and sustainability that can be tailored to local needs.
Comment: PACE Innovation Act – February 10
Opioid Help for Women Letters of Intent – February 16
NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program – February 23
Request for MACPAC Nominations – February 24
AHRQ Seeks Information From Healthcare Delivery Orgs – February 28
Black Lung Clinics Program (BLCP) – March 6
Radiation Exposure Screening and Education Program – March 6
Black Lung Center of Excellence (BLCE) – March 6
Request for MedPAC Nominations – March 10
New Deadline for Hospital Data Submission – March 13
Broadband Service for Rural Communities – March 13
Community Facilities Program – Ongoing