NRHA Today

May 21, 2021

Rural Communities, families, divided over COVID vaccination:

Daily COVID-19 vaccination rates are falling nationwide, and gaps in uptake are starting to show in rural America. According to a CDC report, coverage was lower in rural counties (38.9 percent) than urban counties (45.7 percent. This is problematic because many rural residents are at greater risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID. “The moment we’re in right now is overcoming vaccine hesitancy in a rural context,” says NRHA CEO Alan Morgan. “That’s the battle at hand.” Morgan adds that vaccine “messaging to date has simply been wrong, at a national level, for rural America.” The National Rural Health Association (NRHA) believes our members, stakeholders, and leaders in rural communities can provide crucial perspective on the benefits of vaccination. A recent Cleveland Clinic study showed that 99.75 percent of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 between Jan. 1 and April 13 were not fully vaccinated. To reinforce the association’s dedication to health equity, NRHA has joined several national coalitions aimed at communicating vaccine safety and efficacy.

NRHA to host webinar on RHC access to $1B in COVID funding:

NRHA is hosting a webinar at 2:30 p.m. CDT May 24 on how rural health clinics can take advantage of the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) nearly $1 billion in rural COVID-19 response funds. Speakers from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy will outline the opportunities and provide direction on how to apply. Additionally, HRSA’s forthcoming Rural Health Clinic Vaccine Confidence Program will support vaccine outreach in rural communities, including working to improve vaccine confidence and counter vaccine hesitancy. HRSA’s Rural Health Clinic COVID-19 Testing and Mitigation Program also supports 4,600 Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) across the country in their testing and mitigation efforts. NRHA can’t wait to see you in person for conversations on rebuilding our rural communities and keeping residents safe Sept. 21-22 at NRHA’s 19th Rural Health Clinic Conference in Kansas City, Mo. Submit presentation proposals for this event through June 2.

HRSA determines pharma companies in violation of 340B statue:

HRSA recently directed six drug manufacturers to comply with 340B pricing requirements or risk financial penalties. HRSA took action in response to recent requests by stakeholders to take enforcement action against drug manufacturers that fail to comply with 340B program requirements. NRHA recently sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra urging him to uphold the integrity of the 340B Drug Pricing Program. Since last summer, large pharmaceutical manufacturers have waged attacks against the program targeting contract pharmacies and covered entities, and NRHA is pleased with HRSA’s recent actions to uphold 340B for the rural patients and providers who rely on the program. NRHA can’t wait to see you in person to continue the fight to uphold 340B with sessions at NRHA’s Rural Health Clinic and Critical Access Hospital Conferences Sept. 21-24 in Kansas City, Mo. Submit presentation proposals for these events through June 2.

Two weeks to speak at NRHA’s clinic, Critical Access Hospital (CAH) events this fall:

NRHA is accepting session proposals through June 2 for our 2021 Rural Health Clinic and Critical Access Hospital Conferences, which will be held in person Sept. 21-24 in Kansas City, Mo. This is your chance to share effective models, policies, research, and information and provide attendees with insights and best practices addressing many of the access, quality, and patient safety issues confronted by CAHs and RHCs. NRHA urges members to contribute a session abstract for consideration. We look forward to seeing you this fall to share strategies to survive the changing landscape for rural hospitals.

NRHA to host oral health training for Community Health Workers (CHWs):

In partnership with the CareQuest Institute for Oral Health, NRHA is hosting a virtual community health worker training on oral health at 10 a.m. CDT May 25. The training is open to all community health workers working with rural patients and communities. Space is limited, so early registration is encouraged. Additionally, meaningful legislation addressing health care inequities in the U.S. requires studies examining health disparities due to geographic location or economic status. According to recent research, rural children are less likely to receive preventive dental care than urban children, which can have serious consequences for oral health and overall health. The findings of this study are important to informing legislative change, as preparations for the surgeon general’s report on oral health are currently underway.

Telehealth bill addresses barriers “cooked in ” to state law:

The use of telehealth has increased during the pandemic, allowing patients to be seen right away and facilitating regular tracking of chronic conditions. Digital care may be the new model for health care – but certain reimbursement structures for rural health clinics and community health centers mean they don’t get paid for virtual visits. According to Charles James of the Illinois Rural Health Association, an NRHA member, these problems are “cooked in” to existing payment structures – but in Illinois, a new bill aims to remove barriers to telehealth services. Broadband assistance for rural residents is available through the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, which provides a temporary discount on broadband bills for low-income households. We can’t wait to see you in person to navigate the changing landscape of telehealth Sept. 21-24 at NRHA’s Rural Health Clinic and Critical Access Hospital Conferences in Kansas City, Mo. Submit presentation proposals for these events through June 2.