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Top news stories from the past 60 days. For more, see news by topic or news by state.

Deaths from Alcohol, Drugs and Suicide for People of Color Rise Dramatically, Although Still Below the Rates of White Americans
Feb 22, 2018 - Details the results of an analysis by Trust for America's Health (TFAH) and the Well Being Trust (WBT) which found that although deaths from alcohol, drugs, and suicide amongst people of color are still below the rates of their white counterparts, there were disproportionately large increases in these deaths from 2015 to 2016 among racial and ethnic minority groups.
Source: Trust for America's Health
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A Larger Role for Midwives Could Improve Deficient U.S. Care for Mothers and Babies
Feb 22, 2018 - Highlights a new study which found a correlation between the integration and acceptance of midwives into obstetrical care and improved maternal and infant outcomes and cost-effectiveness of care. Details the history of the United States' move away from midwifery as well as the growing acceptance of nurse-midwives and the impact they could potentially have in addressing racial health disparities and care shortages in rural and low-income communities.
Source: ProPublica
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FCC Updates and Modernizes National Broadband Map
Feb 22, 2018 - The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has released an updated and modernized version of its National Broadband Map. This version of the map is designed to support more frequent data updates in order to provide a reliable source of broadband deployment information for consumers.
Source: Federal Communications Commission
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USDA Launches Webpage Highlighting Resources to Help Rural Communities Address the Opioid Crisis
Feb 22, 2018 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) unveiled a new webpage with resources to help rural communities respond to the opioid epidemic and tailor that response to their specific needs. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, approximately 63,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016, with more than half of those attributed to opioids.
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture
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Reducing Red Tape For Traveling Nurses
Feb 20, 2018 - Details a new version of the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), which allows licensed nurses to practice in any participating state without obtaining an additional state license. This provides flexibility to traveling nurses being used to address nursing shortages and contributes to the ability of nurses to provide telehealth across state lines. The new version adds the requirement for federal criminal background checks, which some states said was missing from the previous version. While this change has encouraged more states to sign-on to the agreement, some continue to have concerns about the NLC compact having lower requirements for licensure than their individual states.
Source: Kaiser Health News
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Trump Administration Works to Give Relief to Americans Facing High Premiums, Fewer Choices
Feb 20, 2018 - The U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and the Treasury issued a proposed rule that would allow consumers to purchase short-term, limited-duration health insurance coverage for any time period less than 12 months, rather than the current maximum period of less than three months. This rule aims to provide additional options to those who cannot afford health insurance under current regulations. A fact sheet on this proposed rule is available.
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
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A Conversation with Mark Deutchman
Feb 20, 2018 - Radio interview with Mark Deutchman, M.D., a professor in the University of Colorado School of Medicine's Department of Family Medicine with faculty appointments in the School of Dental Medicine and the School of Public Health, the founding director of the School of Medicine's Rural Track, and the Executive Director of the Colorado Area Health Education Center Program Office. Discussion includes oral health and primary care integration, oral health access in rural areas, and the importance of primary care providers in rural areas, among other things.
Source: Rural Health Leadership Radio
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Infant Death Rates Are Higher in Rural America - but Not for All Causes
Feb 16, 2018 - Details the results of a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics on the five leading causes of infant death and how these mortality rates vary in rural and urban areas. Although rural infant deaths have been higher for some time, this is the first breakdown by causes, and reveals that for the most recent data, rural rates were only higher for three of these five causes.
Source: Chicago Tribune
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SAMHSA Publishes Guidance on Clinical Best Practices Using Medication-Assisted Treatment to Combat the Opioid Epidemic
Feb 15, 2018 - The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) published the Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) 63, "Medications for Opioid Use Disorder", to serve as guidance for healthcare professionals treating patients with opioid use disorder using medication-assisted treatment.
Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
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The Lack of a College Degree Is a Public-Health Crisis. Here’s What Higher Ed Can Do About It.
Feb 14, 2018 - Discusses the connection between health and higher education as it relates to rural areas, where there are often fewer people who pursue a degree beyond high school. Includes thoughts from experts in health, education, and economics as well as some college leaders.
Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education
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Aetna Foundation to Support States in Fight Against the Opioid Epidemic
Feb 13, 2018 - The Aetna Foundation announced that it will provide grants totaling $6 million to fund projects combating the opioid epidemic. These will be projects that state and local leaders have identified as promising. The first $1 million grant will be awarded to the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition's (NCHRC) Rural Opioid Overdose Prevention Project, which distributes naloxone and provides education in five rural North Carolina counties.
Source: Business Wire
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A Conversation with Ryan Neville
Feb 13, 2018 - Radio interview with Ryan Neville, the President and CEO of Memorial Medical Center, a Critical Access Hospital (CAH) and Accountable Care Organization (ACO) in Wisconsin. Discussion includes challenges related to providing care in rural areas and effective methods of physician recruitment and retention, among other things.
Source: Rural Health Leadership Radio
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Here Are the Places That Struggle to Meet the Rules on Safe Drinking Water
Feb 12, 2018 - Details some of the concerns about safe drinking water in the U.S. A new study found that many of the country's water systems have been in violation of federal Safe Drinking Water health standards, and that these violations are more common in small, rural, and low-income communities which may not have the resources to keep up with these federal standards. Also includes some possible solutions.
Source: The New York Times
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Committee Continues Efforts to Prevent Opioid Epidemic from Harming More Americans
Feb 7, 2018 - Blog post from the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means detailing the Health Subcommittee's second hearing on the opioid crisis this year. Subcommittee members heard from Vermont Governor Phil Scott as well as from several healthcare professionals about successful public-private partnerships in the Medicare program and steps that Congress can take to protect Medicare beneficiaries who are most at risk of opioid addiction.
Source: U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means
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Suicide Rate Highest in Decades But Worst in Rural America
Feb 7, 2018 - Highlights the increasing gap between rural and urban suicide rates, touching on some of the potential contributing factors as well as what states with high suicide rates have been doing to address it. The aggregate suicide rate for non-metropolitan counties jumped 14% over a five year period.
Source: Governing
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Black Lung Study Finds Biggest Cluster Ever Of Fatal Coal Miners' Disease
Feb 6, 2018 - In a research letter published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) confirmed 416 cases of progressive massive fibrosis, or complicated black lung, in three clinics in central Appalachia from 2013 to 2017. This is the largest cluster of advanced black lung disease ever reported. To further complicate this issue, black lung is being found in young miners, indicating a more progressive disease.
Source: NPR
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HUD Grants $243 Million to Help U.S. Virgin Islands Recover from Hurricanes Irma and Maria
Feb 2, 2018 - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded $242.7 million through the Community Development Block Grant - Disaster Recovery Program to help the U.S. Virgin Islands recover from recent hurricanes. This funding will support long-term economic, infrastructure, and housing recovery.
Source: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
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HUD Awards $1.5 Billion to Help Puerto Rico Recover from Hurricanes Irma and Maria
Feb 1, 2018 - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded more than $1.5 billion through HUD's Community Development Block Grant -- Disaster Recovery Program to support long-term recovery of housing and local businesses Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Source: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
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CMS Proposes Medicare Advantage and Part D Payment and Policy Updates to Provide New Benefits for Enrollees, New Protections to Combat Opioid Crisis
Feb 1, 2018 - The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed changes to Medicare Advantage and Part D health and drug programs. These changes would redefine health-related supplemental benefits to include covering of non-skilled in-home supports, portable wheelchair ramps, and other assistive devices and modifications, and would ensure patient-doctor-plan communication regarding opioid use to give health plans additional tools to manage chronic overuse.
Source: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
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5 Ways for Healthcare Providers to Get Ready for New Medicare Cards
Feb 1, 2018 - The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released guidance to help providers prepare for new Medicare cards, which will replace the existing Social Security-based Health Insurance Claim Number with randomly-assigned numbers. Also links to the New Medicare Card provider page.
Source: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
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Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., On New Steps To Help Prevent New Addiction, Curb Abuse and Overdose Related to Opioid Products
Jan 30, 2018 - Statement from the Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the agency's efforts to address the opioid epidemic, including new packaging intended to reduce new addiction and the release of the Opioid Analgesic REMS Education Blueprint for Health Care Providers Involved in the Treatment and Monitoring of Patients with Pain.
Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration
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FCC Takes Final Steps for next Phase of Rural Broadband Expansion
Jan 30, 2018 - The Federal Communications Commission completed the final steps in launching its Connect America Fund Phase II auction, an effort to expand fixed, high-speed internet service in unserved rural areas. Applications to participate in the auction, which will provide up to $1.98 billion to the lowest-bidding companies, are due by March 30, 2018.
Source: Federal Communications Commission
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A Conversation with John Gale
Jan 30, 2018 - Radio interview with John Gale, Senior Research Associate with the Maine Rural Health Research Center at the University of Southern Maine. Discussion includes the opioid epidemic, medication-assisted treatment, the impact of the epidemic in rural areas, and the ways that rural communities and rural providers can address it, among other things.
Source: Rural Health Leadership Radio
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A New Study on Redesigning Care for Vulnerable Patient Populations
Jan 29, 2018 - Blog post from the American Hospital Association (AHA) discussing an upcoming study, lead by their Health Research and Education Trust, that will identify factors that lead to performance improvement in safety-net hospitals, build an evidence base for redesigning care for vulnerable populations, and inform policy decisions that affect safety-net organizations.
Source: American Hospital Association Blog
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Announcing the Milbank Memorial Fund and AcademyHealth State and Local Innovation Prize
Jan 25, 2018 - The Milbank Memorial Fund and AcademyHealth have created a new annual award to raise awareness for, and to reward, the efforts of state and local governments to develop and use data to achieve measurable improvements in the health of a population. Nominations for this award will be accepted through March 6, 2018.
Source: Milbank Memorial Fund
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SAMHSA Is Accepting Applications for up to $52 Million in Grants to Treat People Affected by Homelessness, Mental Health Disorders
Jan 24, 2018 - The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is accepting applications for up to $52 million in grants to help local service providers offer behavioral health and recovery support services to people experiencing homelessness. Up to 16 grants will be awarded under SAMHSA's Treatment for Individuals Experiencing Homelessness program.
Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
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SAMHSA Is Accepting Applications for up to $17 Million in Grants to Address HIV and Behavioral Health Disorders
Jan 24, 2018 - The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is accepting applications for up to $17.4 million in grants to integrate evidence-based, culturally competent mental and substance use disorder treatment with HIV primary care and prevention services. Up to 10 grants will be awarded through SAMHSA's Minority AIDS Initiative: Service Integration Program.
Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
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DEA Announces Step to Increase Opioid Addiction Treatment
Jan 24, 2018 - The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) published a final rule that will allow more midlevel practitioners to prescribe buprenorphine to treat opioid addiction. This is in an effort to make it easier for people living in rural and underserved areas to access medication-assisted treatment.
Source: U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration
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HUD Secretary Ben Carson Pledges More Resources For Rural Poverty
Jan 24, 2018 - Highlights comments made by Ben Carson, the Secretary for Housing and Urban Development, at the 5th Annual Hunger and Homelessness Summit in Wisconsin, with a focus on mental illness and drug additions. Also discusses the disparity in funding opportunities for rural areas as opposed to urban areas and the relative costs to taxpayers for housing homeless people compared to how much emergency room care and extra policing cost when these people are left homeless.
Source: Wisconsin Public Radio
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USDA Invests in e-Connectivity to Restore Rural Prosperity by Providing Training and Health Care Services
Jan 19, 2018 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded 72 grants totaling $23.6 million through the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Grant Program to improve connectivity in rural communities. The grants will support projects in 28 states and will be used to provide virtual access to job training, educational and healthcare opportunities, opioid abuse treatment, and mental health counseling.
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture
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Report: Hospitals Not Always Best Fit for Rural Communities
Jan 17, 2018 - Discusses a recent study which found that Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) may not be the best format to provide care in rural communities because of low patient volume and high fixed costs. Other models for how this care could be provided can be controversial because of the economic role CAHs play in rural communities. Also touches on alternate models which have been or will be presented to Congress for consideration. (May require registration for full article.)
Source: Modern Healthcare
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A Conversation with Marty Fattig
Jan 16, 2018 - Radio conversation with Marty Fattig, CEO of a Critical Access Hospital in Nebraska, the Chairman of the Rural Health Advisory Commission, and a member of the Critical Access Hospital Advisory Council and the Critical Access Hospital Advisory Board on Quality. Discussion includes electronic health records and the use of technology to improve rural healthcare, the work being done by the Nemaha County Hospital, and the value of small, rural hospitals' flexibility, among other things.
Source: Rural Health Leadership Radio
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EOP: Supporting Broadband Tower Facilities in Rural America on Federal Properties Managed by the Department of the Interior Federal Register
Jan 12, 2018 - Official memorandum from the Executive Office of the President (EOP) outlining the Administration's intent to use all appropriate and available tools to accelerate the deployment of modern, affordable, and reliable high-speed broadband connectivity in rural America. The memorandum also directs the Secretary of the Interior to develop a plan to support these efforts by increasing access to tower facilities and other infrastructure assets managed by the Department of the Interior (DOI).
Source: Federal Register
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CMS Announces New Policy Guidance for States to Test Community Engagement for Able-Bodied Adults
Jan 11, 2018 - The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released guidance for states seeking to test programs through Medicaid demonstration projects under which work or participation in community engagement activities would be a condition for Medicaid eligibility for able-bodied, working-age adults.
Source: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
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Opioid Crisis Affects All Americans, Rural and Urban
Jan 11, 2018 - Blog post from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) discussing the opioid epidemic and its impact in rural areas, including rapidly increasing death rates, infants born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), and the economic costs. Also highlights efforts to address the epidemic.
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture Blog
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EOP: Streamlining and Expediting Requests To Locate Broadband Facilities in Rural America Federal Register
Jan 11, 2018 - Executive order designed to improve access to broadband internet service in rural America by reducing barriers to capital investment, removing obstacles to broadband services, and more efficiently employing government resources. The order also directs the Administrator of General Services to review and streamline the process for expediting requests to locate broadband facilities on federal property.
Source: Federal Register
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Rural Public Health Preparedness Collaborative Inaugural Meeting (January 2018)
Jan 10, 2018 - Details the first meeting of the National Association of County and City Health Officials' (NACCHO) Rural Public Health Preparedness Collaborative. This collaborative was established to connect health departments from rural and frontier communities for networking and collaboration and to inform national preparedness policy and practice.
Source: National Association of County and City Health Officials
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CMS Announces New Payment Model to Improve Quality, Coordination, and Cost-effectiveness for Both Inpatient and Outpatient Care
Jan 9, 2018 - The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Innovation Center announced a new voluntary bundled payment model under which providers can earn additional payment, beyond that for individual services performed, if all expenditures for a beneficiary's episode of care are under a spending target. This Bundled Payments for Care Improvement Advanced (BPCI Advanced) model is intended to support investment in practice innovation and care redesign for improved quality and reduced expenditures. BPCI Advanced will qualify as an Advanced Alternative Payment Model (Advanced APM) under the Quality Payment Program.
Source: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
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A Conversation with Bill Sexton
Jan 9, 2018 - Radio interview with Bill Sexton, former president of the National Rural Health Association and the Chief Executive Officer of Crossing Rivers Health, a rural hospital in Wisconsin. Discussion includes the development of the Rural Hospital Flexibility Act, the work being done at Crossing Rivers Health including using telemedicine to provide behavioral healthcare, and the work of the Rural Wisconsin Health Collaborative and the Rural Veterans Health Initiative, among other things.
Source: Rural Health Leadership Radio
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Secretary Perdue Presents Agriculture and Rural Prosperity Task Force Report to President Trump
Jan 8, 2018 - Includes USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue's statement on the Interagency Task Force on Agricultural and Rural Prosperity's Report, which was presented to President Trump at the 2018 American Farm Bureau Annual Convention. Also touches on the key indicators of rural prosperity as identified by this task force: E-Connectivity, Quality of Life, Rural Workforce, Technology, and Economic Development.
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture
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Hospitals In States That Expanded Medicaid Less Likely To Close
Jan 8, 2018 - Highlights a study published in the journal Health Affairs that found that hospitals in states that expanded Medicaid were approximately 6 times less likely to close than hospitals in non-expansion states. The study found that because rural hospitals tend to operate on thinner margins, about half of the rural hospital closures in non-expansion states could have been prevented through expansion.
Source: NPR
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Small Hospital Closures Mean Loss of Access to Care
Jan 6, 2018 - Details the complex challenges faced by rural hospitals compared to their urban counterparts and how they contribute to rural hospital closures. These challenges include specific trends in who is typically served by rural and urban hospitals, changes in the way that healthcare is delivered, inherent disadvantages for rural hospitals in the way that data is collected, and economic considerations like rural hospitals having proportionally more fixed costs and greater difficulty with recruitment and retention, among other things.
Source: Bulletin of the American College of Surgeons
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Farm Groups Launch ‘Farm Town Strong’ Campaign to Address Rural Opioid Epidemic
Jan 3, 2018 - Announcement from the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and the National Farmers Union (NFU) about their efforts to address the impact of the opioid epidemic on farmers, farm workers, and farm communities. A recent survey found that less than 50% of rural Americans say that they or their friends or family have been directly impacted by opioid abuse, while 74% of farmers and farm workers say that they or their friends or family have been directly impacted.
Source: Farm Bureau
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Justice Department Announces Funding Opportunities for Tribal Communities
Jan 3, 2018 - The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced grants for comprehensive funding to federally-recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments and tribal consortia to support public safety, victim services, and crime prevention. These grants are being offered through nine competitive grant programs, or "purpose areas," from which applicants can select any or all to allow the DOJ to consider the totality of a tribal nation's public safety needs.
Source: U.S. Department of Justice
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FCC: Promoting Telehealth in Rural America Federal Register
Jan 3, 2018 - Proposed rule from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) seeking to ensure that rural providers get the support they need, while also guarding against fraud, waste, and abuse. The proposed rule also seeks to mitigate the impact of the existing Rural Health Care (RHC) Program cap, and ensure that the program operates efficiently. The RHC Program, which includes the Healthcare Connect Fund, provides funding to eligible rural providers to improve and/or expand the telecommunications and broadband services necessary for the provision of healthcare. Funding for the RHC Program is currently capped at $400 million annually. Comments regarding the proposed rule must be submitted no later than February 2, 2018.
Source: Federal Register
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CMS Launches Data Submission System for Clinicians in the Quality Payment Program
Jan 2, 2018 - The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that participants in the Quality Payment Program (QPP) can begin submitting their 2017 performance data using a new system on the QPP website. A fact sheet on this system is available.
Source: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
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Moody’s Report First to Measure Social Effects on Health in Every County
Jan 2, 2018 - Highlights the results of a report prepared for the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association on the links between social determinants of health and differences in health across communities. The report, Understanding Health Conditions Across the U.S., found that social determinants of health have a greater impact on chronic conditions like hypertension, diabetes, and coronary artery disease, and a lesser impact on conditions like cancer, substance use disorder, and mental health.
Source: HealthLeaders Media
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SAMHSA Is Accepting Applications for up to $5.54 Million for the Garrett Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention Grant
Dec 29, 2017 - The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is accepting applications for the Garrett Lee Smith (GLS) Campus Suicide Prevention Grant to develop comprehensive, collaborative, and evidence-based approaches to improving services for all college students, including those at risk for suicide, depression, serious mental illness, and substance use disorders and promoting help-seeking behavior and reducing stigma. These grants, totaling $5.54 million over the next three years, will likely go to 18 grantees.
Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
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CMS Approves First 10-Year Section 1115 Demonstration Extension
Dec 28, 2017 - The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) approved a demonstration extension for Mississippi's Medicaid program. This extension will extend eligibility for family planning services to people aged 13-44 who are not enrolled in Medicaid, Medicare, or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and with incomes up to 194% of the federal poverty level (FPL). This 10-year extension, the first of its kind, is intended to reduce the burden of the state continually obtaining approvals from CMS.
Source: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
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Drones Show Potential for Delivering Telemedicine, mHealth Services
Dec 27, 2017 - Around the world, drones have been used to successfully deliver healthcare services in rural, remote, and other inaccessible areas. In the U.S., however, drone usage has been limited due to safety and other regulatory concerns. Drone advocates are now hoping lawmakers will quickly craft appropriate, drone-related legislation that addresses these concerns, but also allows for the expanded use of drones in healthcare delivery applications.
Source: mHealth Intelligence
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The Year in Review: Telehealth, mHealth Made Their Mark in 2017
Dec 26, 2017 - Highlights the major legislation, events, and industry changes that impacted mobile health and telehealth during 2017. Includes information about rural-specific impacts and provides links for additional reading on each topic.
Source: mHealth Intelligence
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