Rural Health
Top Stories

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

One-Third of Long-Term Users Say They’re Hooked on Prescription Opioids
Dec 9, 2016 - According to the results of a new survey from The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation, one third of Americans who have taken prescription opioids for at least two months are physically dependent on the medication. Nearly all long-term users were introduced to the drugs by a doctor's prescription, more than 60% were given no advice from doctors on when to stop the medication, and 20% of doctors did not provide sufficient information about the potential side effects, like addiction.
Source: The Washington Post
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Census Report Is Unusually Informative About Rural
Dec 8, 2016 - Addresses rural-specific nature of the recently released Census American Community Survey report. Details some of the specific findings and highlights from the report.
Source: The Daily Yonder
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New Census Data Show Differences Between Urban and Rural Populations
Dec 8, 2016 - The U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey provides county-specific data on a national scale. This survey includes data from 2011 through 2015 on more than 40 demographic, housing, social, and economic topics.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau
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Senate Approves Landmark Mental Health Bill As Part Of 21st Century Cures Act
Dec 7, 2016 - Covers the Senate vote on the 21st Century Cures Act, a bill which passed the House of Representatives last week. The Senate voted overwhelmingly in favor of the bill, which focuses heavily on mental healthcare.
Source: Kaiser Health News
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New Tribal Agenda Aims to Improve Behavioral Health in Native Communities
Dec 6, 2016 - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today announced the release of the Tribal Behavioral Health Agenda (TBHA), a collaborative tribal-federal blueprint of strategies and priorities to improve the behavioral health of American Indians and Alaska Natives.
Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
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Employment Grows in 3 out of 5 Rural Counties
Dec 5, 2016 - Provides data on employment growth and decline in rural counties across the country. Although all regions saw growth, it did tend to be concentrated in the Midwest, Southeast, and Pacific Northwest. Many counties in areas that had seen significant employment growth due to oil and gas resources saw a decline. Despite growth, the overall rural employment level remains below it's pre-recession level.
Source: USDA Economic Research Service
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HRSA: Agency Information Collection Activities: Proposed Collection: Public Comment Request; Health Workforce Connector Federal Register
Dec 5, 2016 - In order to expand the function of the current National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Jobs Center, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is developing the Health Workforce Connector. The Health Workforce Connector will provide a central platform where users can create a profile, search for NHSC and NURSE Corps sites, find job opportunities, and search by site points of contact. The Health Workforce Connector will link healthcare professionals and students wishing to provide primary care services in underserved communities with facilities in need of providers. Comments regarding the information collection requirements of the Health Workforce Connector are being accepted until February 3, 2017.
Source: Federal Register
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Delivered ‘Like A Pizza’: Why Killer Drug Fentanyl Is So Hard To Stop
Dec 2, 2016 - Focuses on the detrimental impact of fentanyl, either mixed with opioids or sold on its own, on people suffering from drug addiction, as well as the difficulty in preventing the production and import of the drug into the country.
Source: Kaiser Health News
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Cures Act Heads to Senate After Quick Passage in House
Nov 30, 2016 - Details the bipartisan efforts that went into writing and passing the 21st Century Cures Act, which passed in the House of Representatives today. The bill will provide new funding for the opioid epidemic, cancer, and precision medicine, among other things.
Source: Modern Healthcare
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Legislation To Improve Mental Health Care For Millions Faces Congressional Vote
Nov 30, 2016 - Discusses the mental health provisions in the 21st Century Cures Act which the House of Representatives will vote on today. If passed, it would require federal agencies to fund only programs backed by research and to collect data on their efficacy, push states to provide early intervention for psychosis, provide $1 billion in the next two years for prevention and treatment of opioid addiction, and better coordinate the 112 mental health programs funded by eight different federal agencies, among other things.
Source: Kaiser Health News
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Trump’s Pick to Run Medicare and Medicaid Has Red State Policy Chops
Nov 29, 2016 - Focuses on Seema Verma, President-elect Trump's nominee to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Details the work she did in helping to craft Indiana's Medicaid expansion and several opinions on what CMS may look like under her leadership.
Source: NPR
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White, Rural Drug Users Lack Needle Exchange Programs to Prevent HIV Infections
Nov 29, 2016 - A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that the U.S. does not have enough needle-exchange programs in place to reduce the risk of new HIV and hepatitis infections. Due to the opioid epidemic and the associated needle-sharing by drug users, there has been a significant increase in new infections and new demographics are now considered vulnerable, including white people living in rural areas in Appalachia, New England, and the Ozarks.
Source: Chicago Tribune
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Senate Unanimously Passes Telemedicine Legislation
Nov 29, 2016 - The Senate approved the Expanding Capacity for Health Outcomes (ECHO) Act, which will apply the University of New Mexico's Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) on a national scale. Project ECHO's hub-and-spoke model of telemedicine distribution was very successful at increasing healthcare access in remote and underserved areas.
Source: mHealthIntelligence
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Drug Costs Skyrocket for Many Older Americans, Despite Medicare Coverage
Nov 28, 2016 - Medicare prescription drug prices have seen significant increases in recent years, leaving many beneficiaries struggling to pay for life-saving medication. There is debate over whether Medicare should be able to negotiate with prescription drug companies for lower drug prices.
Source: LA Times
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Rule Change Could Push Hospitals To Tell Patients About Nursing Home Quality
Nov 27, 2016 - If passed, an new rule would allow hospitals to be more open with patients about the quality of care typically received in specific facilities so that patients and their families are better informed when making this decision. It is anticipated to improve care for elderly residents in nursing homes.
Source: NPR
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W&M: Improving Americans’ Access to Health Care through the 21st Century Cures Act
Nov 25, 2016 - Blog post from the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee detailing the 21st Century Cures Act. This legislation is anticipated to improve access to healthcare, including provisions related to Critical Access Hospitals and other hospitals in rural areas, lift barriers to participating in Accountable Care Organizations, and make changes to some Medicare regulations.
Source: House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee Blog
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Q&A with Tom Vilsack: We Should Expect More of Our Government
Nov 22, 2016 - Interview with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on the Affordable Care Act, rural counties with little competition in their Marketplaces, Medicaid expansion, the relationship between rural people and the federal government, the impact of his work as Secretary of Agriculture, and the future of the White House Rural Council under the next administration.
Source: The Daily Yonder
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In Depressed Rural Kentucky, Worries Mount Over Medicaid Cutbacks
Nov 19, 2016 - Details the concerns in Kentucky over the possibility of Medicaid cutbacks or a dismantling of the Affordable Care Act. Almost a third of Kentucky residents are in the state Medicaid program which allowed 440,000 low-income residents to be insured and access needed care.
Source: NPR
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By Drawing 50 'States' According to Income, Study Reveals 'Developing Countries' Within the U.S.
Nov 17, 2016 - A new study sorted U.S. counties by their average median incomes into 50 "states" of varying levels of wealth. The poorest state was 75% rural, as opposed to the richest state, which was 21% rural. The poorest state also had a smaller population but twice the rate of population per primary doctor. People were twice as likely to smoke, 50% more likely to be obese, and had a shorter life expectancy of 7-10 years.
Source: LA Times
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Surgeon General Murthy Wants America To Face Up To Addiction
Nov 17, 2016 - Interview with U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy on the newly-released report on substance abuse, covering the prevalence, economic impact, and public opinion of substance abuse and substance use disorder as well as ways to address the problem.
Source: NPR
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HHS and USDA Collaborating Since 2012 to Improve Local Access to Healthcare in Rural America
Nov 17, 2016 - Blog post for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on their collaboration with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to improve healthcare access in rural areas, including USDA Rural Development projects and investments in low interest loans, loan guarantees, and grants in 20 states.
Source: United States Department of Agriculture Blog
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A Whole-Family Approach to Serving Families in Rural America
Nov 17, 2016 - Blog post from the White House on the efforts by the Obama Administration to connect low-income families in rural and tribal areas with social services, including discussion of the Rural Integration Models for Parents and Children to Thrive (Rural IMPACT) Demonstration, a cross-agency effort to improve upward mobility in rural and tribal places.
Source: The White House Blog
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Surgeon General Issues Landmark Report on Alcohol, Drugs and Health
Nov 17, 2016 - U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy released a report, Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General's Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health, calling alcohol and drug misuse and severe substance use disorders one of America's most pressing public health concerns. Among other things, the report also found that substance use disorder treatment serves only a fraction of those who need it.
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
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Let’s Get Rural America Covered!
Nov 17, 2016 - Blog post from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Acting Deputy Secretary, Mary K. Wakefield, about Open Enrollment in the ACA Marketplaces and what people living in rural communities should know.
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Blog
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With Little Housing Growth, Native American Families Live In Close Quarters
Nov 16, 2016 - Discusses the housing shortage for the Northern Arapaho on Wyoming's Wind River Indian Reservation, which has 230 homes despite the growth of the tribe to 11,000 people. The problem is presented as a national one, with federal funding not keeping pace with inflation and population growth. Tribal leaders have been focused on solutions that prevent overcrowding but will allow families to continue traditional multigenerational living.
Source: NPR
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HHS Takes Additional Steps to Expand Access to Opioid Treatment
Nov 16, 2016 - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that nurse practitioners and physician assistants are able to immediately begin the required 24 hours of training to prescribe the opioid use disorder treatment, buprenorphine. This is anticipated to increase access to providers of the treatment and to assist in combating the growing opioid epidemic.
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
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Hospital Impact: How Rural Hospital Closings Weaken the Nation's Health
Nov 16, 2016 - Details the challenges faced by rural hospitals and the potentially devastating consequences to rural communities when their rural hospital closes.
Source: FierceHealthcare
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The Teen Birth Rate in Rural America Is Nearly Two-Thirds Higher than in Urban America, CDC Says
Nov 16, 2016 - Teen birth rates have fallen to a record low, but the rates in rural areas are still significantly higher than in urban areas. The birth rate in urban counties has dropped 50%, with the rate at 18.9 births for every 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 19. In rural counties, teen birth rates have dropped 37%, with the rate at 30.9 births for every 1,000 women, ages 15-19.
Source: LA Times
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Intensely Local: How Some Rural Hospitals Thrive
Nov 16, 2016 - Looks at rural hospitals that have not become part of larger systems and how they remain financially viable serving high-need populations in a time when many rural hospitals are closing.
Source: The Daily Yonder
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Statement by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Rural America at a Glance, 2016 Edition
Nov 14, 2016 - Statement from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on the USDA's Economic Research Service's annual report, Rural America at a Glance, 2016 Edition. In his statement, Vilsack discusses the efforts made to improve the economy in rural America and the successes outlined in the report.
Source: United States Department of Agriculture
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Nationwide Observance of National Rural Health Day
Nov 11, 2016 - Announcement from the National Office of State Offices of Rural Health on National Rural Health Day, November 17, 2016. Includes resources like "websights" and a call to action in support of rural health, and also highlights some of the efforts taking place around the country to celebrate National Rural Health Day and the #PowerofRural.
Source: National Office of State Offices of Rural Health
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Uninsured In Coal Country: Desperate Americans Still Turn To Volunteer Clinics
Nov 7, 2016 - Details the efforts of a free mobile clinic program to address the health needs of people in rural Virginia. Without Medicaid expansion, the uninsured rate remains high, and lack of vision and dental care compound the problem. People camped out a day in advance for the weekend medical clinic, which anticipated it would deliver more than $1 million in healthcare services, including making 400 pairs of eyeglasses and pulling nearly 1,000 teeth.
Source: Kaiser Health News
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Two-Thirds of U.S. Job Growth Occurs in Largest Cities
Nov 4, 2016 - Focuses on the results of September's job report, which reveals that non-metropolitan counties are adding jobs at half the rate of metropolitan areas. Includes an interactive map providing country-specific information.
Source: The Daily Yonder
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FCC Plans $21M Fine for Rural Health Care Program Abuse
Nov 4, 2016 - The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced in a press release that it would be fining Network Services Solutions and its chief executive for wire fraud and for violations involving the Universal Service Fund Rural Health Care Program.
Source: Federal Communications Commission
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CMS: Medicare Program; Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) and Alternative Payment Model (APM) Incentive Under the Physician Fee Schedule, and Criteria for Physician-Focused Payment Models Federal Register
Nov 4, 2016 - As part of the transition to quality-based payment systems required by the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA), the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued a final rule that establishes guidelines for clinician participation in certain Advanced Alternative Payment Models (Advanced APMs) and the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS). Provisions of the rule take effect on January 1, 2017. Public comments must be submitted by December 19, 2016.
Source: Federal Register
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Remarks by Andy Slavitt: A New Normal in Health Care Quality, Cost and Access
Nov 3, 2016 - A blog post from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) featuring the comments delivered by Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt at the American Academy of Actuaries annual meeting. Remarks compare healthcare realities before and after the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and what still needs to be done moving forward.
Source: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Blog
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Medicare Finalizes Substantial Improvements That Focus on Primary Care, Mental Health, and Diabetes Prevention
Nov 2, 2016 - The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) finalized the 2017 Physician Fee Schedule final rule, which focuses on primary care, chronic pain management, and behavioral health. This rule also finalizes many of the policies to expand the Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program (MDPP) expanded model, the diabetes prevention program model test eligible to Medicare beneficiaries.
Source: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
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Telemedicine Helps Link Children, Mental Health Specialists in ER Cases
Nov 1, 2016 - A new study has found that the use of telemedicine to provide access to mental health services can improve patient care and outcomes in rural areas, enable smaller hospitals and clinics to keep more of their patients, and reduce costly transfers and unnecessary hospitalizations. This is particularly important for pediatric cases, as the report found that 1 in 5 children involved in an emergency care situation needed mental health services.
Source: mHealthIntelligence
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The Impact of Obamacare, in Four Maps
Oct 31, 2016 - Details the changes in the number of uninsured from 2013-2016, comparing numbers in states that expanded Medicaid with those that did not. Includes state-by-state and county-by-county data.
Source: The New York Times
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Urban and Rural Household Spending in 2015
Oct 31, 2016 - Compares the spending data for urban and rural households by type and amount for the year 2015. Includes spending on health insurance, medical services, and prescription drugs, among other things.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Our Report to the President on Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Parity
Oct 27, 2016 - President Obama established the Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Parity Task Force to ensure that mental health and substance use health needs were being covered by health insurance equitably to physical health needs. This details the final report with recommendations submitted to President Obama by this task force.
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
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CMS Announces Additional Opportunities for Clinicians to Join Innovative Care Approaches under the Quality Payment Program
Oct 25, 2016 - The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced new opportunities for clinicians to join Advanced Alternative Payment Models (APMs). Clinicians who do can potentially earn an incentive payment under the Quality Payment Program, which rewards clinicians with sufficient participation in Advanced APMs that align incentives for high-quality, patient-centered care.
Source: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
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Controversial Proposal for Nurses Could Expand Access to Care for Veterans
Oct 24, 2016 - The Department of Veteran's Affairs (VA) has proposed a rule that would allow nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and clinical nurse specialists to practice independently of physicians. Increasing the number of people who can provide care has been touted as a solution to the lack of access in rural communities and for underserved populations, but there is significant disagreement over the proposal.
Source: The Daily Signal
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Investigation: The DEA Slowed Enforcement While the Opioid Epidemic Grew Out of Control
Oct 22, 2016 - Details the impediments faced by Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) officials in moving their cases forward, especially against large drug companies. These impediments came largely from the headquarters of the DEA, but also from other government agencies, the drug companies themselves, and from Congress.
Source: The Washington Post
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How Drugs Intended for Patients Ended up in the Hands of Illegal Users: ‘No One Was Doing Their Job’
Oct 22, 2016 - Reveals failures in control of prescription opioids through several levels of the supply chain, including many drug companies who "knew or should have known" about the massive quantities that were ending up on the black market.
Source: The Washington Post
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Rural Hospitals Outperformed Urban in Value, Readmissions, Hospital Acquired Condition Programs
Oct 20, 2016 - Compares rural and urban hospitals using data from 2015, including hospital readmissions reductions, hospital value-based purchasing, and hospital-acquired conditions reduction, as well as differences in the services provided and the health concerns of the patients utilizing these facilities.
Source: Healthcare Finance
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Report Calls for Addressing Social Risks in Medicare Payment
Oct 19, 2016 - A report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine identifies several ways Medicare could incorporate social risk factors into the value-based payment model. Specifically, the report advocates that Medicare collect data from Medicare beneficiaries in order to use known social determinants of health to create better health outcomes.
Source: American Academy of Family Physicians
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Appalachia’s Unseen Cancer Crisis
Oct 19, 2016 - A new study from the University of Virginia School of Medicine has found that rural Appalachia has a growing cancer crisis. In this region, cancer incidence has increased while the rest of the country decreased and the cancer and cancer mortality rates have gone from being the lowest in the country to the highest. Contributing factors include poverty, poor access to healthcare, as well as higher rates of obesity and smoking.
Source: University of Virginia Today
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Remarks by Andy Slavitt: Meeting the Health Challenges of Rural America
Oct 19, 2016 - The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt's remarks given at the CMS Rural Health Summit. Remarks detail recent improvements in healthcare, the work needed to close the gap in care between urban and rural areas, and the efforts that have already been made to that end.
Source: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Blog
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Regulators Approve Higher Health Premiums to Strengthen Obamacare Insurers
Oct 19, 2016 - Healthcare premium increases are being approved by state insurance regulators across the country, several by a percentage point or more than carriers wanted. Some are concerned about increasing prices while others argue that as insurers understand their new markets better, prices will stabilize.
Source: USA Today
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‘Watching the Ship Sink’: Why Primary Care Doctors Have Stayed Out of the Fight Against Opioids
Oct 19, 2016 - Focuses on the shortage of physicians certified to treat patients with opioid use disorders in a rural community in New Mexico to address this nationwide issue. Despite the fact that the opioid epidemic is the country's fastest-growing public health crisis, less than 1% of primary care doctors are certified to treat substance use disorders.
Source: STAT
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Rural Trauma Patients More Likely to Die Before Reaching Hospital
Oct 18, 2016 - A new study found that critically injured patients in rural communities are less likely to be treated at trauma centers and are also about twice as likely to die before they reach a hospital than their urban counterparts. With a large portion of these deaths taking place shortly after the injury occurs, it is suggested that faster EMS response times could address this problem.
Source: Reuters Health News
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$294 Million in Primary Care Workforce Awards Help Expand Access to Primary Care
Oct 18, 2016 - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced more than $294 million in awards to primary care clinicians and students through the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) and NURSE Corps Scholarship and Loan Repayment Programs. These programs provide funding to reduce primary care clinicians and students' educational debt in exchange for service in underserved communities.
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
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FACT SHEET: North American Working Group on Violence against Indigenous Women and Girls, New Commitments & Accomplishments from the Obama Administration
Oct 14, 2016 - Fact Sheet on the North American Working Group on Violence Against Indigenous Women and Girls (the Working Group), an initiative to address the high levels of domestic and sexual violence against indigenous women and girls across North America. Includes goals and initiatives underway to address issues of violence across the country.
Source: The White House
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In North Carolina, ACA Insurer Defections Leave Little Choice for Many Consumers
Oct 14, 2016 - Focuses on North Carolina, where almost all of the state will have only one option under the Affordable Care Act's Marketplace in 2017, to address nationwide concerns over the lack of competition in the Marketplaces and higher costs.
Source: The Washington Post
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A Letter from CMS to Medicare Clinicians in the Quality Payment Program: We Heard You and Will Continue Listening
Oct 14, 2016 - A blog post from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on the newly released Quality Payment Program final rule and on the efforts CMS will continue to make to understand the challenges faced by Medicare providers during the transition to value-based payments. Addresses concerns specific to small and rural practices.
Source: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Blog
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HHS Issues Final Rule to Enhance the Reliability, Transparency, Accountability, and Safety of Certified Health Information Technology
Oct 14, 2016 - Pre-publication release of a final rule from the Office of the National Coordinator for HIT (ONC) that will be published in the Federal Register on October 19, 2016. This rule emphasizes the importance of protecting public health and safety while also strengthening transparency and accountability in the ONC Health IT Certification Program, which supports physicians and hospitals in the use of Health IT. The final rule focuses on direct review, consistent authorization and oversight, and increased transparency and accountability.
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
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HHS Finalizes Streamlined Medicare Payment System That Rewards Clinicians for Quality Patient Care
Oct 14, 2016 - CMS has released a copy of the final rule related to the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) Quality Payment Program. The new payment system provides two paths for practitioners as they transition to the value-based payment model and places emphasis on providing flexibility throughout the transition process, especially for smaller practices. Additionally, MACRA will be providing $20 million a year for five years to train Medicare clinicians in small practices and those working in underserved areas. Read a fact sheet and visit the newly launched Quality Payment Program website for information to assist clinicians in understanding the program. Comments on the rule will be accepted for 60 days from publication of the final rule in the Federal Register.
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
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Rural Areas Lack Mental Health-Care Providers, Report Says
Oct 13, 2016 - According to a brief from WWAMI, there is a shortage of mental health providers serving non-metropolitan counties. Reveals that the disparity is not only for psychiatrists, but also counselors, social workers, and psychologists.
Source: The Daily Yonder
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Tackling Tough Issues Together: The CMS Rural Health Council Solution Summit
Oct 11, 2016 - Details the progress that has been made by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in addressing rural health issues and provides information about the upcoming CMS Rural Health Solutions Summit on October 19, 2016. Includes information on the CMS Rural Health Council, rural health coordinators at regional CMS offices, Rural Health Open Door Forums, recent Medicare regulation reforms, and a number of rural listening engagements around the country.
Source: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Blog
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EPA Offers Assistance to Rural Communities
Oct 10, 2016 - The United States Environmental Protection Agency is offering assistance for planning and developing strategies to grow the economy and revitalize the downtown neighborhoods of rural communities through the Rural Advantage program. The program includes several initiatives including Health Places for Healthy People, Cool & Connected, and Local Foods, Local Places.
Source: The Daily Iowegian
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