Rural Health & Human Services Top Stories

Top news stories from the past 60 days.

Obama Signs Federal Spending Package With Health IT Implications
Dec 17, 2014 - This news item highlights the Health IT implications of the recently signed continuing resolution omnibus spending bill that will fund most of the government for the next year. It draws attention to implications for military health IT and rural health IT in addition to direction for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.
Source: iHealthBeat
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Mentoring, Telemedicine Offer Paths to Better Rural Health Care Access
Dec 17, 2014 - At a recent Brooking Institute event, calls were made for changes that would reward physicians and health centers that adopt a coordinated care approach. Using Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) as an example, this article discusses the merits of mentoring networks and the technologies that support these relationships in the pursuit of better access to healthcare for rural residents.
Source: The American Academy of Family Physicians
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Opportunities to Transform Rural Health Care
Dec 17, 2014 - This article recaps a recent MEDtalk event focused on transforming rural healthcare delivery, highlighting possible solutions to problems of access to care that exist in rural communities. These include innovating the primary care-specialist relationship, leveraging high- and low-tech innovations, and aligning payment models to support delivery of care.
Source: The Brookings Institute
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PCORI Advisory Panel Application Open
Dec 17, 2014 - The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) has announced openings on its advisory panels for terms beginning in 2015. Vacancies on the following panels are sought to be filled: 1) Assessment of Prevention, Diagnosis, and Treatment Options, 2) Improving Healthcare Systems, 3) Addressing Disparities, 4) Patient Engagement, and 5) Rare Disease. The deadline to submit online applications is February 6, 2015 at 5:00 pm ET.
Source: The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute
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For Cash-Strapped Rural Hospitals, Survival is Uncertain
Dec 17, 2014 - This article tells the story of a hospital established in 1953 in rural Missouri that is now barely able to keep its doors open. The man who established the hospital, and now is a patient, tells how the Medicare payment switch to the prospective payment system (PPS) caused financial hardship that still persists. Although the Critical Access Hospital (CAH) status has since arrived to help, this rural Missouri hospital still suffers from low volumes of patients; the primary driver of reimbursements through the CAH system. This historical perspective of the struggling rural hospital is not that dissimilar to trends across the country.
Source: Mid-Missouri Public Radio
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HRSA: Statement of Organization, Functions and Delegations of Authority Federal Register
Dec 17, 2014 - Announces changes to HRSA’s Office of Rural Health Policy, including a new name, the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP). The notice also establishes the Policy Research Division, the Administrative Operations Division, and moves the roles of the Border Health Division to the Office of the Associate Administrator.
Source: Federal Register
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HHS Awards More than $665 Million to Design and Test State-Led Efforts to Improve Health Care Quality, Accessibility and Affordability
Dec 16, 2014 - The Department of Health and Human Services has announced nearly $700 million to states to design and test healthcare payment and service delivery models aimed at improved quality of care and lower associated costs. This article provides more detail about the program's aims and grantees.
Source: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
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Op-Ed: Rural Life Need Not Be Without Good Health Insurance
Dec 15, 2014 - This opinion piece argues for the positive impact the Affordable Care Act is making on rural communities by extending health insurance, furthering preventive care, and providing more funding for programs that recruit physicians to rural areas.
Source: The CT Mirror
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Secretary’s Column: Deadline Approaching for Health Insurance Coverage that Begins January 1
Dec 15, 2014 - Monday the 15th of December is the last day to sign up for health insurance coverage that will take effect on January 1st through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Open enrollment will continue through February 15, but coverage will not take effect until March 1st unless a person enrolls by the December 15th deadline. This blog post from the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture discusses the deadline and the impact of the ACA on rural communities.
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture
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Community Hospitals Becoming Endangered Species
Dec 15, 2014 - This article discusses the fundamental changes taking place in healthcare that are reshaping small and rural hospitals. It cites high fixed costs, low patient volumes, and dwindling reimbursements as challenges to hospitals being able to operate like they have in the past.
Source: The Daily News
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The Geography of Happiness
Dec 11, 2014 - This Daily Yonder write up on the findings of the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps, 2014 edition, discusses the relationship between geographic location and mental health. The study finds there is a sweet spot in geography to maximize happiness, which is living in a rural county that is located adjacent to a metropolitan county. This article details the conclusions of the report.
Source: The Daily Yonder
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Spending Bill Addresses Military EHRs, Rural Health IT
Dec 10, 2014 - This item in the Politico Morning eHealth reports on how a continuing resolution bill aimed to fund most of the government will have implications for both military and rural health IT efforts. The package would give $14.9 million to the Health Resources and Services Administration aimed to help small, rural hospitals adopt health IT.
Source: Politico
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Rural Docs Pull Ahead in Electronic Records
Dec 10, 2014 - Reports on a recent study that shows a higher percentage of rural medical practitioners have adopted electronic medical records (EMRs) when compared to their urban counterparts. The article compares this finding with previous studies that found rural medical practices lagging behind urban medical practices in rates of EMR uptake. The study will soon be released in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.
Source: The Daily Yonder
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HHS Awards $36.3 Million in Affordable Care Act Funding to Reward and Expand Quality Improvement in Health Centers
Dec 9, 2014 - The Department of Health and Human Services has announced $36.9 million in Affordable Care Act funding to 1,113 health centers across the country in recognition of quality improvement achievements. Funds will be use to continue to provide access to high quality primary care to underserved patients.
Source: The Department of Health and Human Services
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CMS: Medicare Program; Medicare Shared Savings Program: Accountable Care Organizations Federal Register
Dec 8, 2014 - The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is accepting comments on a proposed rule that addresses changes to the Medicare Shared Savings Program, including provisions relating to the payment of Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) participating in the Shared Savings Program. Changes include stronger incentives for small and rural hospitals to participate in the Shared Savings Program, updating benchmarking methodology aimed to better account for regional factors, as well as some adjustments to billing claim processes for Federally Qualified Health Centers and Rural Health Centers, among other things. This proposed rule also calls for comments on the use of telecommunication technologies, such as telehealth, as a means to coordinate care among ACO members.
Source: Federal Register
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Mobile Health Faces a Bumpy Road in Rural California
Dec 8, 2014 - Through sharing the experience of a rural doctor in California's Southern Sierra, this article discusses some challenges to using mobile health as a solution to rural health disparities in California. The article argues that financial affordability and spotty cellular networks will put a damper on implementation of mobile health aimed to educate, monitor and communicate with patients.
Source: Los Angeles Times
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New Federal Health IT Strategic Plan Sets Stage for Better Sharing Through Interoperability
Dec 8, 2014 - The Department of Health and Human Services' Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology has released the new Federal Health IT Strategic Plan that lays out cross-agency goals for the years 2015 to 2020. The goal of the Strategic Plan is to provide interoperable health information that can be used in the development of policies and programs to improve healthcare. Comments are being accepted on the plan through February 6, 2015.
Source: HHS, Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology
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Program Seeks to Bring More Doctors to Rural Iowa
Dec 7, 2014 - An Iowa state-run loan forgiveness program has been established this year to better address healthcare workforce disparities in rural communities in Iowa. The Rural Iowa Primary Care Loan Repayment Program has awarded funding to its first group of students this year, providing each student with up to $200,000 in loan aid as long as they agree to work for five years in a rural community in Iowa.
Source: The Des Moines Register
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Video Visits Blocked Despite Doctor Shortage
Dec 7, 2014 - Discusses the use of telemedicine in the field of rural healthcare and the policy growing pains it is experiencing. Although there is much optimism about how the technology can increase access and quality of care in rural areas, concerns include the potential lack of physician follow-up with patients and the ability to prescribe pharmaceuticals to patients whom the physician has never met.
Source: USA Today
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Transforming Rural Health Care: High-Quality, Sustainable Access To Specialty Care
Dec 5, 2014 - Health Affairs blog post based on a case study that discusses transforming healthcare delivery and finance reform. This entry discusses transforming specialty care in rural communities through use of technology, such as virtual learning, electronic consultation, and telemedicine.
Source: Health Affairs Blog
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2015 Advanced Nursing Education (ANE) Funding Opportunity Announcement
Dec 5, 2014 - The Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Bureau of Health Workforce (BHW) has released the 2015 Advanced Nursing Education (ANE) Funding Opportunity Announcement.
Source: Health Resources and Services Administration
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President Signs Jenkins, Moran Rural Health Legislation Into Law
Dec 4, 2014 - President Barack Obama has signed into law the bipartisan H.R. 4067, which will delay Medicare's enforcement of direct supervision rules for outpatient therapy services at Critical Access Hospitals and other small, rural hospitals. The press release includes remarks from the author of the bill and some examples of direct supervision rules for outpatient services.
Source: Office of Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins
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Movie Review: 'Remote Area Medical' Tackles Rural Health Care Crisis
Dec 4, 2014 - Describes a film that has documented the work of Remote Area Medical, a mobile health clinic service provider that works to extend healthcare access to rural areas in Tennessee. The story includes a three and a half minute video that provides a sneak peek into the full movie.
Source: The Memphis Commercial Appeal
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In Rural Alabama, Fighting HIV With A Game
Dec 3, 2014 - HIV is a real concern for residents of rural Alabama where young African American men are 10 times more likely than the state average to contract the virus, but the stigma associated with the virus is still one of the greatest barriers to solving the problem. This article describes a new approach to addressing the concern: a video game. A team of experts from the fields of infectious diseases, adolescent psychology and coding have gathered to create an educational internet-based, role-playing game to educate adolescents in Alabama about the disease and to help address the stigma.
Source: National Public Radio
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New Report Pinpoints Drivers of Rapid Growth in the 340B Program
Dec 3, 2014 - A new white paper released by Berkeley Research Group and funded by the Alliance for Integrity and Reform of 340B forecasts continued, rapid growth for the 340B discounted drug program for years to come. The study concludes the reason for this can be found in the increase of participation of Disproportionate Share Hospitals (DSH) in the 340B program.
Source: Alliance for Integrity and Reform of 340B (AIR 340B)
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CHIME Time: Taking a Long View in Solving the Staffing Conundrum
Dec 3, 2014 - Commentary piece that outlines staffing problems that many small and rural hospitals face, with a focus on IT staff. The author recommends a long-term and patient solution, rather than simply quickly filling the gap in staff, which might include cross-training, growing-your-own from within, and creating workplace efficiencies. (May require registration for access to full article)
Source: Modern Healthcare
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'Mega Boards' Could be Rural Healthcare Disruptor
Dec 3, 2014 - Discusses a new paper published by the Rural Policy Research Institute (RUPRI) Health Panel which proposes strategies for affordable, accessible healthcare in rural communities that focuses on the health of the community as opposed to the financial aspects of providing care.
Source: HealthLeaders Media
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ObamaCare Outreach Campaigns Microtargeting Uninsured
Dec 3, 2014 - Outreach campaigns aimed at growing health insurance enrollment numbers during the second open enrollment period are focusing on specific populations who are lacking coverage, including rural areas.
Source: The Hill
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CMS: Medicaid Program; Disproportionate Share Hospital Payments-Uninsured Definition Federal Register
Dec 3, 2014 - This final rule addresses the hospital-specific limitation on Medicaid disproportionate share hospital (DSH) payments. This rule provides that the quoted test will be applied on a service-specific basis; the hospital-specific DSH limit will include the cost services furnished to uninsured individuals.
Source: Federal Register
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Leapfrog's Latest Rankings See Top Hospital List Grow by Four
Dec 2, 2014 - Leapfrog Group has released its 2014 top hospital lists including 25 facilities that are located in a rural area - the highest number of rural hospitals on the list since the category was introduced in 2009. (Full article may require registration)
Source: Modern Healthcare
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Medicaid Expansion and Rural Hospital Closures
Dec 1, 2014 - Drawing off of rural hospital closure data kept by the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research at the University of North Carolina, this infographic displays the effect of medicaid expansion on rural hospitals. As the infographic shows, states that have not expanded Medicaid have had more hospital closures in rural areas that those that have expanded Medicaid.
Source: Families USA
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CMS Releases New Proposal to Improve Accountable Care Organizations
Dec 1, 2014 - The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released a proposal aimed to improve the Shared Savings Program for Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) by putting more emphasis on primary care services. This news release explains the changes and their aims in detail.
Source: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
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VA: Exempting Mental Health Peer Support Services From Copayments Federal Register
Nov 28, 2014 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is releasing a proposed rule to amend its regulation that outlines the VA services that are not subject to copayment requirements for inpatient hospital care or outpatient medical care and is seeking comment on this proposed rule. The rule is exempting copayment costs for mental health peer support services.
Source: Federal Register
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VA: Exempting Mental Health Peer Support Services From Copayments Federal Register
Nov 28, 2014 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is releasing a direct final rule to amend its regulation that outlines the VA services that are not subject to copayment requirements for inpatient hospital care or outpatient medical care. The rule is exempting copayment costs for mental health peer support services.
Source: Federal Register
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Rural South Carolina School Districts Remain Very Poor After 2 Decades
Nov 28, 2014 - This story reports on rural school districts in South Carolina that were impoverished 20 years ago and today are still living in poverty. The article tells the unique story of 40 school districts that have sued the state government who have continued to fall behind their counterpart counties.
Source: The McClatchy Company
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Native Americans Left Behind in the Economic Recovery
Nov 27, 2014 - The rate of unemployment and poverty remain higher for Native Americans and Alaskan Natives. This article explains how this population is more slowly recovering from the recession, offering statistics on rates of poverty and education.
Source: U.S. News
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Nonprofits in Rural America Face Deepening Problems
Nov 26, 2014 - This article provides an overview of some challenges currently being faced in rural America, such as homelessness, poverty and unique barriers to healthcare provision. The article also makes clear that our nonprofits and communities need to better mobilize philanthropic resources to make progress addressing these challenges.
Source: NonProfit Quarterly
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Colorado Center Helps Native American War Veterans Heal 'Wounded Hearts'
Nov 24, 2014 - This piece discusses post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in Native Americans returning to Colorado after the Afghanistan War and what the Centers for American Indian and Alaska Native Health at the University of Colorado's School of Public Health. It discusses the higher rates of PTSD in American Indians and Native Alaskans and their higher-than-average rural residency rate.
Source: Colorado Public Radio
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Health Care Challenges for Rural Americans but More Options Than Ever
Nov 24, 2014 - This opinion piece written by the CEO of a rural, healthcare facility offers insight into not only the disparities that exist in rural America, but also into the growing number of solutions to address them.
Source: Finger Lakes Times
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CMS Extends 2014 EHR Attestation Deadline for Eligible Hospitals, CAHs
Nov 24, 2014 - The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid has extended the deadline for Critical Access Hospitals and other eligible hospitals to attest meaningful use of electronic health records. This extension will also have an impact on the deadline for reporting some clinical quality measures.
Source: American Hospital Association
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Rural Healthcare in Crisis: What Does the Future Hold?
Nov 23, 2014 - This article interviews rural health leaders concerning factors that led to the current rural healthcare crisis, practical solutions, and hopeful signs in addressing the problems. (Full article may require registration)
Source: FierceHealthcare
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Senate Passes Rural Health Care Resolution
Nov 21, 2014 - The National Rural Health Association reports that the Senate passed a resolution recognizing that access to hospitals and other healthcare providers for patients in rural areas of the United States is essential to the survival and success of communities in the United States. The resolution was passed on National Rural Health Day, November 20th, 2014.
Source: The National Rural Health Association
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Reopen Pennsylvania Health Centers, Supreme Court Rules
Nov 21, 2014 - A ruling from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said that the state's Department of Health must cease any further closings of rural community health centers and must "re-establish centers in counties in which they have been unlawfully closed." This decision comes after 16 rural health centers have been closed in the past year.
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
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Hitachi Foundation Features Medical Assistants Model from Rural Colorado
Nov 21, 2014 - The Hitachi Foundation shares examples of how medical assistants and team-based care can help transform healthcare, featuring the High Plains Community Health Center.
Source: Hitachi Foundation
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VA: Wait-Time Goals of the Department for the Veterans Choice Program Federal Register
Nov 21, 2014 - This Notice announces that November 17, 2014, is the start date for veterans eligible to participate in the Veterans Choice Program.
Source: Federal Register
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State Panel Meets Over Ailing Rural Hospitals
Nov 20, 2014 - In the midst of another rural hospital closure in Georgia, a state Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee, headed by Governor Nathan Deal, met to hear from speakers outlining the depth of the state's rural healthcare crisis.
Source: Georgia Health News
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Nation Celebrates National Rural Health Day
Nov 20, 2014 - November 20 is National Rural Health Day, a day to celebrate the rural healthcare providers who work every day to meet the healthcare needs of their rural communities.
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US Task Force on Tribal Youth and Violence Urges Creation of New Office, More Funding
Nov 19, 2014 - A new report released by a U.S. Department of Justice advisory committee is fueling a movement to create a new Native American affairs office and seek more funding to combat violence experienced by tribal youth. The report recognizes trends and offers solutions to the problem.
Source: Associated Press via Alaska Highway News
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Who's Being Hurt by the Physician Shortage?
Nov 19, 2014 - Discusses a growing shortage of physicians in rural areas, especially in the face of expanded health insurance coverage. The article also draws attention to some solutions, including getting more rural students into medical school and shortening the duration of medical education.
Source: Louisville Business First
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VA Using Technology to Help Quash Disparities For Rural Vets Needing Health Care
Nov 18, 2014 - This article discusses the telehealth efforts of the Veterans Health Administration's Office of Rural Health, being used to address healthcare disparities for veterans living in rural communities.
Source: Signal Magazine
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Automated CPR Machine Adds Health Care Hand
Nov 18, 2014 - Discusses a new automated CPR machine which gives consistent and continuous CPR to a patient. This is an important innovation for small and rural hospitals because it allows two or more hands to be freed up to help with installing an IV or check the patient's airway. More details about the machine are within this article.
Source: Prairie Business
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Avera eCare: Revolutionizing Rural Health Care
Nov 17, 2014 - Features the Avera eCare system and how it is using telehealth to provide cost-effective services and support to rural healthcare facilities, as well as peace of mind for rural providers and patients.
Source: KSFY
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Speak Your Piece: Walk It Off, Folks
Nov 17, 2014 - This article by Dr. Wayne Myers, M.D. discusses the fact that rural residents are walking less than their urban counterparts. This is explained by a lack of appropriate infrastructure but the article also offers some innovative solutions to address the disparity.
Source: The Daily Yonder
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Rural Americans Encouraged to Sign up for Affordable Care Act on Saturday
Nov 14, 2014 - U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack visited Kansas City to encourage rural residents to sign up for health insurance through the federal healthcare insurance marketplace. This article discusses the importance the Secretary wanted to place on rural residents and highlight insurance coverage as an barrier to healthcare.
Source: KCTV5
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Joint Commission Recognizes 1,224 Hospitals for Outstanding Performance on Key Quality Measures
Nov 13, 2014 - The Joint Commission has released their 'America's Hospitals: Improving Quality and Safety: The Joint Commission's 2014 Annual Report'. This report reports on both urban and rural hospitals from small critical access hospitals to large academic medical centers.
Source: The Joint Commission
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Rural Hospitals in Critical Condition
Nov 13, 2014 - This USA Today article describes the severity of rural hospital closures across the country; 43 closures since the beginning of 2010. More alarming, the article points out that the rate of the closures has greatly accelerated over these past 4 years. Includes four sections describing the unique challenges rural healthcare facilities are facing in a financially uncertain environment.
Source: USA Today
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CMS Awards $3.9 Million to Improve Access to Quality Health Care Services for American Indian and Alaska Native Children
Nov 12, 2014 - The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services have awarded $3.9 million for outreach and enrollment in Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) with American Indian and Alaskan Native populations. The grant money will be used to engage schools and tribal agencies in Medicaid and CHIP outreach and enrollment activities.
Source: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
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Inpatient Volume, Revenue Drops as Outpatient Care Makes Gains
Nov 11, 2014 - This article argues that dropping volume of inpatient services, and associated revenues, are bankrupting hospitals, especially rural hospitals. It submits the solution of shifting focus, and costs, to outpatient services to lessen the burden they are feeling. It uses data from a MedPAC report that researched the relationship between hospital volumes and costs.
Source: RevCycle Intelligence
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Continued Funding a Must to Avoid 'Primary Care Cliff,' Say AAFP, Other Groups
Nov 10, 2014 - This article by the American Academy of Family Physicians states its support for three programs aimed to improve access in underserved and rural areas; Teaching Health Centers, Community Health Centers, and the National Health Service Corps. It outlines the merits of the programs and the importance of continued support for them.
Source: The American Academy of Family Physicians
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American Veterans Are Half as Likely to Live in Big Cities
Nov 10, 2014 - This article provide some statistics on geographic location of veterans throughout the country. It concludes that veterans overwhelmingly prefer to live in rural areas, instead of cities.
Source: Market Watch
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OIG Releases Its Workplan for 2015
Nov 10, 2014 - Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Inspector General (OIG) released on Friday its Work Plan for fiscal year (FY) 2015. This work plan includes all anticipated work for the next fiscal year including investigating the impact of the 2-midnight rule and comparing reimbursement for swing-bed services at critical access hospitals (CAHs) to the same level of care obtained at traditional skilled nursing facilities to determine whether Medicare cost savings.
Source: JD Supra Business Advisor
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Rural Remedies
Nov 9, 2014 - This article suggests that social dynamics may have more to do with America’s rural doctor shortage than the number of medical schools or curriculum. It discusses this unique consideration when recruiting workforce and the need to build an established medical community and a vibrant rural lifestyle, which could help alleviate feelings of professional isolation to lure more physicians.
Source: Yakima Herald
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HRSA Awards $51.3 Million in Affordable Care Act Funding to Support Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment
Nov 6, 2014 - The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has announced $51.3 million in Affordable Care Act funding to support mental health and substance abuse services in 210 health centers across the country, including many serving rural communities.
Source: Health Resources and Services Administration
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CMS: Medicare and Medicaid Programs; CY 2015 Home Health Prospective Payment System Rate Update; Home Health Quality Reporting Requirements; and Survey and Enforcement Requirements for Home Health Agencies Federal Register
Nov 6, 2014 - This final rule updates Home Health Prospective Payment System (HH PPS) rates, including those that affect rural facilities. Among other things, the rule simplifies face-to-face encounter requirements for patients transferring from acute-care to home health settings.
Source: Federal Register
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VA: Expanded Access to Non-VA Care Through the Veterans Choice Program Federal Register
Nov 5, 2014 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is accepting comments on the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 interim final rule until March 5, 2015. The rule dictates the creation of the Veterans Choice program which allows veterans who cannot be seen by a VA healthcare provider within the wait-time goals of the VHA, or who qualify based on their place of residence, to be seen by non-VA healthcare providers.
Source: Federal Register
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A New Effort to Ease the Doctor Shortage
Nov 4, 2014 - The Federation of State Medical Boards is gearing up to promote an interstate compact aimed to ease licensing requirements for physicians who practice in 2 or more states. Discusses how this compact, in conjunction with telehealth technology, can help ease a doctor shortage around the country, especially in rural areas.
Source: Governing
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Grant Opportunity: Rural Health Network Development Planning Program Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources & Services Administration
Nov 3, 2014 - The Federal Office of Rural Health Policy has announced a one-year funding opportunity to assist in planning and developing an integrated healthcare network in a rural area. The Rural Health Network Development Planning Grant Program aims to expand access to and strengthen efficiencies of the rural healthcare system as a whole.
Source: Federal Office of Rural Health Policy
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Medicare Sets 2015 Provider Rates, Weighs Payment For End-Of-Life Counseling
Nov 3, 2014 - The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released final rules concerning Medicare payment policies for providers and suppliers in 2015. This Kaiser Health News digest provides summaries of articles covering the topic. For more information, see CMS Final Rule Fact Sheets.
Source: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
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3rd Annual NRHA/RAC Rural Lens Photo Contest Opens
Nov 3, 2014 - The Rural Assistance Center (RAC) has again partnered with the National Rural Health Association (NRHA) for the third annual Rural Lens competition.
Source: Rural Assistance Center
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TJC Updates Equipment Maintenance Rules for Critical Access Hospitals
Oct 31, 2014 - The Joint Commission (TJC) has updated its standards to align with new federal requirements that allow critical access hospitals to deviate from manufacturers’ maintenance recommendations in certain circumstances.

Source: The Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation
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Promoting Rural Opportunity by Expanding Access to Broadband
Oct 31, 2014 - Discusses a recent dialogue with The Rural Broadband Association hosted by the White House Rural Council concerning the importance of broadband connection in rural communities. This article recaps the meeting and emphasizes the team approach when tackling this cross-sector problem in rural America.
Source: The White House Rural Council
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CMS Releases Home Health Final Rule
Oct 30, 2014 - The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released the final rule for the home health prospective payment system for calendar year 2015. Overall, as proposed, the rule reduces home health payments by 0.3% from 2014 payment levels, a $60 million reduction. It also simplifies requirements for a physician to meet a patient face-to-face when they are moving from the acute-care setting to the home health setting.
Source: American Hospital Association
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VA: Veterans' Rural Health Advisory Committee; Notice of Meeting Federal Register
Oct 30, 2014 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) gives notice of an upcoming meeting of the Veterans Rural Health Advisory Committee. The agenda will include updates from the Committee Chair and the Director of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Office of Rural Health (ORH), as well as presentations on general health care access and quality.
Source: Federal Register
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The New Heroin Epidemic
Oct 30, 2014 - This article discusses the growing heroine epidemic throughout the United States with note of the drugs severe impact in rural communities.
Source: The Atlantic
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No Margin For Error: Virginia's Rural Hospitals Face Enormous Challenges
Oct 29, 2014 - The Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association (VHHA) has released a report outlining challenges faced by 37 rural hospitals and their communities in Virginia. This article highlights key findings of the report.
Source: Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association
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Investing in Rural America
Oct 29, 2014 - This article from Mid-Missouri Public Radio discusses the importance of internet capabilities in rural healthcare systems throughout the United States and what the United States Department of Agriculture is doing to improve access to it.
Source: Mid-Missouri Public Radio
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Rural Hospitals' Success Under ACA Marred by Delays, Supreme Court Ruling
Oct 29, 2014 - Discusses the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on rural hospitals after four years in existence and the current landscape of rural healthcare. This edition of "Road to Reform" takes a look at the challenges facing rural hospitals and how the ACA might address them.
Source: California Healthline
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CMS Updates FAQ on Hospital Appeals Settlement Offer
Oct 28, 2014 - CMS has updated its frequently asked questions on the settlement offer for certain patient status claim denials for acute care and critical access hospitals. FAQs 3, 31 and 32 let hospitals know that they can submit a request for a "potential list" of eligible claims for the settlement offer, which will be accepted as an intent to participate in the settlement offer.
Source: American Hospital Association
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Request for Information (RFI) on the National Institute on Aging (NIA) Strategic Directions for Research
Oct 28, 2014 - The National Institute on Aging (NIA) is updating and seeking public input on its Strategic Directions to help guide the research it supports over the next five years. The NIA seeks information to better understand health differences and develop strategies to improve the health status of older adults in diverse populations, including rural populations.
Source: National Institute on Aging
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As 'Obamacare' Enrollment Window Reopens, Many Uninsured Unaware of Subsidies
Oct 26, 2014 - Among Americans currently without health insurance coverage, nearly nine in 10 don’t know that the law’s second open-enrollment period begins Nov. 15, according to a poll issued last week by the Kaiser Family Foundation. This article covers this finding and its more severe impact in rural communities.
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
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Rural Gap Exists in Behavioral Health Care
Oct 23, 2014 - In this opinion piece, John Roberts, Executive Director of the Nebraska Rural Health Association, outlines the existing gap in behavioral health services and specialists in rural communities. He also discusses what needs to be done to address the gap.
Source: Kearney Hub
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HHS Secretary Announces $840 Million Initiative to Improve Patient Care and Lower Costs
Oct 23, 2014 - A new initiative funded by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is hoping to transform the current healthcare system from one focused by quantity of care provided to a system that is focused on patient outcomes and coordinated care.
Source: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
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USDA Announces Funding to Improve Rural Water Systems Nationwide and Upgrade Water Infrastructure in Rural Alaska Villages
Oct 23, 2014 - USDA is providing more that $352 million in loans and grants to upgrade rural water and wastewater systems nationwide and to make infrastructure improvements for villages in rural Alaska.
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture
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Struggling To Bring Health Care To Rural Washington
Oct 23, 2014 - Discusses the issue of access to care and the shortage of physicians in Washington, especially in rural parts of the state. In an effort to help solve the problem, Washington State University plans to open its own medical school by 2017 with the goal of placing more doctors in rural areas.
Source: KUOW Puget Sound Public Radio (Washington)
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CMS: Basic Health Program; Federal Funding Methodology for Program Year 2016, Proposed Rule Federal Register
Oct 23, 2014 - The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is accepting comments on the methodology used to determine the federal payment amounts made to states that elect to establish a Basic Health Program under the ACA for program year 2016. Basic Health Programs are designed to provide health insurance benefits to low-income individuals that would otherwise be eligible to purchase coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace.
Source: Federal Register
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Getting the Payment Rates Right in Medicare's Fee Schedule for Physicians, Nurses, and Allied Health Professionals
Oct 22, 2014 - As part of their October meeting, MedPAC focused on the Medicare physician fee schedule and potential inaccuracies in the schedule based on the actual number of hours physicians worked compared to fee schedule time estimates across physician specialties.
Source: MedPAC
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USDA Announces Funding for Rural Broadband and Telecommunications Infrastructure
Oct 22, 2014 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced $190.5 million in grants and loans through the Community Connect grant program, the Telecommunications Infrastructure loan program and the Public Television Digital Transition grant program. These funds help ensure connectivity in rural areas for healthcare, education, and public safety.
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture
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Missouri Sees Urban, Rural Divide In Obamacare Signups
Oct 22, 2014 - Describes a study by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that analyzed enrollment in health insurance marketplace and private health insurance plans by zip code in Missouri and Illinois. The results showed that urban and suburban areas had higher rates of marketplace sign-ups than rural locations, among other things.
Source: Kaiser Health News and St. Louis Post-Dispatch
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Report: Wide Variation In State Exchange Plans' Covered Benefits
Oct 22, 2014 - Kaiser Health News brings together a collection of articles in anticipation of the coming open enrollment period for the ACA's Health Insurance Marketplace Exchange plans.
Source: Kaiser Health News
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USDA Invests in Small and Emerging Rural Businesses and Rural Transportation
Oct 21, 2014 - USDA has announced an investment of $4.9 million through the Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG) program to support rural business and transportation projects across the country.
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture
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HHS: Announcement of Requirements and Registration for “Market R&D Pilot Challenge” Federal Register
Oct 21, 2014 - This is a notice of the Department of Health and Human Services' Market R&D Pilot Challenges which is intended to help bridge this gap by bringing together health care organizations (“Hosts”) and innovative companies (“Innovators”) through pilot funding awards and facilitated matchmaking. The Challenge seeks to award pilot proposals in three different domains: Clinical environments (e.g., hospitals, ambulatory care, surgical centers), public health and community environments (community-based personnel such as public health departments, community health workers, mobile medical trucks, school- and jail-based clinics), and consumer health (e.g., self-insured employers, pharmacies, laboratories).
Source: Federal Register
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A Rural Practice Fights to Stay Solvent
Oct 20, 2014 - This article tells the story of a rural pediatric provider in Hertford County, North Carolina who provides care to an underserved rural population and how the troubled roll out of NCTracks, a new electronic Medicaid payment system, has jeopardized her practice.
Source: North Carolina Health News and MedPage Today
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