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Rural Health
Top Stories

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

Sep 18, 2020 - During the COVID-19 pandemic, many barriers to telehealth services were removed due to new regulatory changes, benefitting both mental healthcare providers and their patients. Describes how telehealth can increase access to mental health services in rural areas as clinicians can work across state lines, discusses how the public could benefit from the telehealth expansions remaining in place after the pandemic.
Source: Vox
Sep 17, 2020 - The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued new guidance for nursing homes on safely facilitating visitations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recommendations include encouraging nursing homes to utilize outdoor visitation and only allowing indoor visitation if there have been no new cases of COVID-19 in 14 days.
Source: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Sep 16, 2020 - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Department of Defense (DoD) released two documents outlining the Administration's strategy to efficiently distribute COVID-19 vaccinations to the American people. The documents include a playbook for state, tribal, territorial, and local public health programs on how to plan a vaccination response in their jurisdiction.
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Sep 16, 2020 - Analyzes new COVID-19 infection rates in counties across the U.S. and finds that rural counties on the red-zone list dropped significantly for the first time in more than two months. Includes an interactive map and a chart detailing rural red-zone counties by state.
Source: The Daily Yonder
Sep 15, 2020 - The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued guidance to state Medicaid directors to aid in the adoption of value-based care strategies across their healthcare systems. The guidance includes an assessment of key lessons in implementing value-based care reforms and a comprehensive toolkit of available federal authorities to help states adopt innovative payment reform efforts.
Source: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Sep 15, 2020 - The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for the Community Health Access and Rural Transformation (CHART) Model Community Transformation Track. 15 rural communities will be chosen to receive up-front funding from the Community Transformation Track to help design systems that improve access high quality care.
Source: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Sep 15, 2020 - Rural vacation destinations have seen an influx of outsiders relocating during the COVID-19 pandemic. Describes how an increase in residents could cause strain on the towns' hospitals and healthcare providers. While the population increase helps some rural hospitals rebound, healthcare facilities may have to rebalance services if the population shift becomes permanent.
Source: Kaiser Health News
Sep 14, 2020 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a final rule allowing the use of funds from select programs to help expand access to broadband services for rural residents and businesses. Entities may use up to ten percent of a loan, grant, or loan guarantee to build or improve rural broadband in certain areas, includes a list of eligible programs.
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture
Sep 14, 2020 - The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) awarded $25 million to 80 recipients across 36 states and two territories as part of the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program (RCORP). The funding aims to reduce morbidity and mortality of substance use disorder and opioid use disorder in rural communities.
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Sep 9, 2020 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development has taken actions to help rural communities and businesses affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Provides a list of opportunities for immediate relief, including the Rural Housing, Rural Utilities, and Rural Business-Cooperative Services. Items with an asterisk are new or updated as of September 9, 2020.
Sep 9, 2020 - Analyzes new COVID-19 infection rates and finds rural cases increased while metropolitan cases declined for the second week in row. Reports an increase in red-zone counties and in the number of cases originating in rural red-zone counties for the first time in four weeks. Includes an interactive map of all U.S. counties new infection rates.
Source: The Daily Yonder
Sep 8, 2020 - Summarizes a study that encourages county and state health departments to release race-specific information on COVID-19 cases to better examine the impacts on people of color in rural areas. Describes how Black and Hispanic populations are at a greater risk of dying from the virus, calls for policy intervention that prioritizes vulnerable populations with limited resources.
Source: Pew Charitable Trusts
Sep 8, 2020 - The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced over $79 million in construction and other capital support for 165 HRSA-funded health centers impacted by Hurricanes Florence and Michael, Typhoon Mangkut, and Super Typhoon Yutu, and wildfires and earthquakes occurring in calendar year 2018, and tornadoes and floods occurring in calendar year 2019. This funding was made available by the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act in 2019, and will help ensure access to healthcare services for communities impacted by disasters and increase health centers' capacity to prepare, respond, and recover to future disasters.
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Sep 3, 2020 - The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced an extension of the Rural Health Care (RHC) and E-Rate program gift rules waiver through December 31, 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Allows broadband providers to offer RHC and E-Rate program participants better internet access and equipment. Seeks to support telehealth and remote learning during the ongoing pandemic.
Source: Federal Communications Commission
Sep 3, 2020 - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the Rural Action Plan, a product developed by HHS's Rural Task Force in collaboration with 18 HHS agencies and offices. The plan seeks to strengthen coordination within HHS departments to better serve rural communities and address several emerging health challenges, including health disparities, chronic disease, maternal mortality, and limited access to mental health services. Announces a four-point strategy to transform rural health and human services that targets: building a sustainable health and human services model for rural communities, leveraging technology and innovation, focusing on preventing disease and mortality, and increasing rural access to care.
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Sep 2, 2020 - Notice of interim final rule with comment period revising long-term care facility reporting and testing requirements related to COVID-19. Also creates new requirements in the hospital and Critical Access Hospital Conditions of Participation for tracking the incidence and impact COVID-19. These regulations are effective on September 2, 2020 and comments are due by November 2, 2020.
Source: Federal Register
Aug 31, 2020 - U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Bette Brand announced the OneRD Guarantee Loan Initiative that provides new information on rates and terms to assist lenders applying for loan guarantees to support rural businesses, infrastructure, and community facilities, and increase private investments in rural America.
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture
Aug 28, 2020 - Announcement from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services of awards for the Federally-Facilitated Exchange Navigator program. Grantees will provide assistance and education to those seeking information about, and to those enrolling in healthcare coverage on the Federal Health Insurance Exchange during the 2021 open enrollment period of November 1 - December 15, 2020.
Source: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Aug 27, 2020 - The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provided $1.5 billion in funding to states and tribes for the first round of State Opioid Response (SOR) and Tribal Opioid Response (TOR) grant programs. This funding supports community-level resources that provide prevention, treatment, and recovery support services.
Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Aug 26, 2020 - Discusses the mental health issues faced by farmers and their families, even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Highlights examples of how America's food producers manage their stress, includes information on a television special on farm stress and mental health aired August 27, 2020.
Source: American Farm Bureau Federation
Aug 26, 2020 - Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, schools have moved classes online, but many rural students lack the internet access or technology to participate. Describes an additional disparity that exists for black, Latino, and Native American populations, and highlights community efforts to address the broadband and technology gaps for these populations.
Source: Thomas Reuters Foundation
Aug 25, 2020 - The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced regulatory changes that require nursing homes to test staff and offer testing to residents for COVID-19. Includes information on new testing requirements for nursing homes, reporting requirements for hospitals and labs, and requirements for physicians and pharmacists ordering tests.
Source: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Aug 25, 2020 - The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced over $117 million in quality improvement awards to 1,318 health centers across all U.S. states and territories. The awards aim to strengthen quality improvement activities and expand healthcare service delivery, including increasing access to COVID-19 testing and treatment.
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Aug 25, 2020 - Analysis finds that while the number of new COVID-19 cases in rural counties has fallen, a third of rural counties still have very high infection rates. Half of all red-zone counties are in a ten-state Southern region. Includes an interactive map of new COVID-19 cases in counties across the U.S.
Source: The Daily Yonder
Aug 24, 2020 - The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released a Medicaid Informational Bulletin that provides guidance to states on how they may use state-directed payments to increase reimbursement for nursing facilities that implement COVID-19 infection control practices. Describes how nursing facilities are vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19 and how states must take steps to enhance infection control policy.
Source: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Aug 22, 2020 - As COVID-19 continues to spread, rural communities find themselves on the brink of losing cash-strapped facilities. Describes how hospital closures often lead to a higher mortality rate in the local community, and while rural hospitals have received some federal aid during the public health crisis, many were too weak before the pandemic hit.
Source: NPR
Aug 21, 2020 - Blog post discusses how communities with relationships within their health network were able to respond faster and more effectively to the COVID-19 crisis. Describes how these relationships build more resilient rural communities, enabling them to address social determinants of health and effectively share information and resources.
Source: National Rural Health Association
Aug 20, 2020 - The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) awarded over $35 million to 50 rural organizations in 33 states to increase access to high quality care in rural communities. The funding will invest in key areas such as telehealth, health workforce training, technical assistance for rural hospitals, and HIV care and treatment.
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Aug 19, 2020 - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a third amendment to the Declaration under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP Act) to increase access to vaccines for children as they return to daycare and school. Includes requirements for State-licensed pharmacists to order and administer vaccines to children aged 3 to 18 years.
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Aug 19, 2020 - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a study that examines COVID-19 effects on American Indian and Native American (AI/AN) populations. Findings show that COVID-19 cases among AI/AN were 3.5 times higher than non-Hispanic whites and AI/AN who tested positive also tended to be younger. Includes information on federal funding provided to address these disparities.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Aug 19, 2020 - The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a Joint Informational Bulletin with five other U.S. agencies, which includes information on federal resources available to help improve health and housing outcomes for older adults and those with disabilities in rural America. The resources can help address physical environmental barriers in the home, increase safety, minimize the risk of falls, and support a person's ability and desire to remain in their own home.
Source: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Aug 19, 2020 - Discusses that while the rate of new COVID-19 infections in rural counties has decreased, certain rural counties in the South, Southwest, Western Indian Country, and Midwest accounted for three-quarters of new cases in rural counties. Includes an interactive map of COVID-19 cases from August 8 to August 15, 2020.
Source: The Daily Yonder
Aug 18, 2020 - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released Healthy People 2030, the nation's 10-year plan for addressing our most critical public health priorities and challenges. Healthy People 2030 features 355 measurable objectives with 10-year targets, including those related to opioid use disorder and youth e-cigarette use, as well as emerging public health threats like COVID-19.
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Aug 18, 2020 - Analyzes county-level job reports and finds that rural employment grew at a slower rate from May to June than the rest of the nation. Findings also show that compared to June 2019 employment rates, every county type has seen job loss this year, but rural counties saw a less pronounced decline, with COVID-19 affecting urban areas the most.
Source: The Daily Yonder
Aug 17, 2020 - The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is seeking public and stakeholder feedback to inform policy related to scoring criteria for Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs). Feedback is requested by September 18, 2020.
Source: Health Resources and Services Administration
Aug 15, 2020 - Analyzes new cases of COVID-19 by rurality and finds that rural counties are adding new cases at a rate above the national average. In early May, rural counties were less likely to acquire new infections, but over time, rural counties saw their case rates climb as the rest of the country either saw a decrease or plateau.
Source: The Daily Yonder
Aug 14, 2020 - The COVID-19 pandemic has put extra pressure on physicians and other healthcare workers; in response, some health systems are using connected health platforms to connect stressed employees with virtual behavioral health services. Discusses how telehealth addresses physician burnout and improves work-life balance, and will continue to do so after the pandemic.
Source: Xtelligent Healthcare Media
Aug 13, 2020 - In rural West Virginia, emergency service calls decreased early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, but in May, calls skyrocketed due to an increase in motor vehicle accidents, elderly health problems, and drug overdoses. Describes how the additional cost of COVID-19 personal protective equipment has impacted emergency medical service finances and discusses the toll the job takes on the mental health of personnel.
Source: 100 Days in Appalachia
Aug 12, 2020 - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a Notice of Funding Opportunity to expand the use of electronic health information via health information exchanges (HIEs) to support state and local public health agencies. $2.5 million will be awarded to five recipients under the Strengthening the Technical Advancement and Readiness of Public Health Agencies via Health Information Exchange (STAR HIE) Program.
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Aug 11, 2020 - The Trump Administration announced new funding opportunities that will increase access to and improve the quality of the rural healthcare system. The Community Health Access and Rural Transformation (CHART) Model allows providers two options for participation: The Community Transformation Track will provide $75 million in seed money to 15 rural communities, and the Accountable Care Organization (ACO) Transformation Track, where providers enter two-sided risk arrangements as part of the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) and may use all waivers available in the MSSP program.
Source: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Aug 10, 2020 - Provides an overview of research that demonstrates that even though mortality rates are getting better, there are disparities in outcomes for black men living in rural areas. Discusses how understanding the intersectional factors of health disparities can help to inform public health policy that is tailored to benefit underserved demographics and improve health equity.
Source: Xtelligent Healthcare Media
Aug 7, 2020 - Blog post discusses how rural hospitals have been affected by COVID-19 throughout the public health emergency. Highlights rural leaders' reactions and initiatives to improve the quality of patient care during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Source: American Hospital Association
Aug 6, 2020 - The Health and Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) awarded $101 million to 116 organizations in 42 states to combat substance use disorders (SUD) and opioid use disorders (OUD). $89 million of the funding will benefit 89 rural organizations as part of the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program-Implementation (RCORP-Implementation).
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Aug 6, 2020 - Executive Order from the Office of the President intended to increase access to, improve the quality of, and improve the financial economics of rural healthcare, including by increasing access to care through telehealth. Provides information and timelines for implementation of various initiatives to accomplish these goals.
Source: Federal Register
Aug 5, 2020 - Provides an overview of a study that found rural areas have the fewest health insurance options and pay the highest premiums. Analysis reveals that local markets experiencing higher volatility and vulnerability are more rural, have a higher percentage of non-white residents, and have resident who are more likely to experience poor health and lower wages.
Source: University of Minnesota
Aug 4, 2020 - Features a small rural hospital on the Texas-Mexico border overwhelmed by a coronavirus outbreak in Rio Grande Valley. With no ICU beds and only 12 full-time doctors in the county, the hospital created a makeshift COVID-19 unit and began transporting severe cases to larger facilities.
Source: New York Times
Aug 3, 2020 - President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order to increase access and improve the quality of rural healthcare, including increasing access to high-quality care through telehealth. Includes a collection of news stories from several different sources covering the Executive Order.
Aug 3, 2020 - Describes how pharmacists can be used to help patients manage medications and address chronic illness as the healthcare workforce shortage continues to grow in rural areas. Identifies states that have expanded pharmacists' scope of practice to prescribe or modify medications, allowing patients to receive medications in a timelier manner.
Source: National Conference of State Legislators
Aug 2, 2020 - Rural households face unique challenges in responding to the 2020 Census and the Census Bureau wants community organizations and leaders to promote participation in hard-to-reach rural areas. Includes a map comparing metropolitan and nonmetropolitan counties to the national response rate.
Source: The Daily Yonder
Jul 31, 2020 - Blog post explores rural and community hospital closures over the last ten years and the impact this has on their communities. Describes how the COVID-19 pandemic highlights weaknesses and disparities in the health system and rural America. Provides recommendations to promote sustainability and support struggling rural hospitals.
Source: National Rural Health Association
Jul 31, 2020 - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) extended the deadline for Phase 2 of the CARES Act Provider Relief Fund general distribution to Medicaid, Medicaid managed care, Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and dental providers. The extension includes allowing certain Medicare providers who experienced challenges in the Phase 1 Medicare General Distribution application period a second opportunity at funding. Both groups have until August 28, 2020 to submit applications.
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Jul 31, 2020 - The Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Wireless Telecommunications Bureau extended the Rural Tribal Priority Window for 2.5 GHz spectrum applications until September 2, 2020. The extension allows Tribal entities more time to apply in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Source: Federal Communications Commission
Jul 30, 2020 - Features the Yakama Nation, a Native community in Washington state that has been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Discusses how COVID-19 data collected often omits information about race and ethnicity, making it difficult for tribes to receive sufficient funds aimed at economic recovery.
Source: New York Times
Jul 30, 2020 - Provides an overview of a study that found rural nurse practitioners (NPs) practice with more autonomy than their urban counterparts, which could motivate NPs to choose to practice in rural areas. Practice autonomy was measured by the percentage of patients NPs treat as their primary care provider, independence from physician supervision, and authority to prescribe medications.
Source: University of Minnesota
Jul 30, 2020 - Summarizes research focused on the implications of telehealth in addressing rural health disparities. Explains how telehealth helps bridge communication gaps, allows for the continuation of care, and reduces physician and patient exposure to coronavirus, but identifies the lack of broadband access in rural areas as a barrier to implementation.
Source: American Academy of Family Physicians
Jul 30, 2020 - Provides an overview of a report released prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, that found rural counties and counties in the Southeast as some of the most disadvantaged in the country. Discusses how philanthropy can help to address these disparities, highlights strategic efforts to invest in the South during COVID-19.
Source: PhilanthropywoRx
Jul 29, 2020 - Scientists at Washington State University (WSU) Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine launched the COVID-19 Urban Rural Explorer (CURE) which provides a daily snapshot of cases in rural communities across the U.S. Describes how the tool can help health professionals respond to rural areas of need and identify rural urban health inequities.
Source: Washington State University
Jul 29, 2020 - The Department of Health and Human Services has issued a request for information regarding programs that provide services to help youth age 16-24 advance education and employment outcomes, with a focus on disconnected or opportunity youth (those from lower income families and communities). Information submissions will be compiled in a program compendium to be released at a later date. Submissions are due by September 28, 2020.
Source: Federal Register
Jul 28, 2020 - Covers how the Navajo Nation successfully limited the spread of COVID-19 and flattened its curve after having one of the highest infection rates in the country. Includes an interview with Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez on how mask mandates, social distancing, and external aid helped them to decrease infection rates.
Source: Vox
Jul 28, 2020 - The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released its first monthly update of data that provides a snapshot of the impact COVID-19 has had on the Medicare population, including data for American Indian and Alaska Native Medicare beneficiaries. The summary of data confirms COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting racial and ethnic minorities as well as other vulnerable populations.
Source: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Jul 27, 2020 - The House and Senate passed the Seeding Rural Resilience Act as an amendment of the National Defense Authorization Act. The Seeding Rural Resilience Act would require the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide voluntary stress management training to employees at specific agencies, create a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and USDA public service announcement to increase awareness of farm and ranch stress and destigmatize mental healthcare in rural communities, and encourage collaboration among state and local government agencies to determine best practices for responding to mental stress.
Source: American Farm Bureau Federation
Jul 27, 2020 - Provides an overview of the National Conference of State Legislatures' (NCSL's) brief, "Boosting Oral Health Care in Rural Communities," which discusses state legislation to address rural disparities and access to oral health services. The brief also provides information on federal programs and resources legislators could consider implementing to improve oral health in rural communities.
Source: National Conference of State Legislators
Jul 27, 2020 - Blog post summarizing research to understand the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on rural health equity in New Hampshire and Vermont. Highlights lessons learned from response efforts deployed in rural Northern New England, describes how rural regions face significant challenges, but the coordinated efforts of health systems and communities were able to stem the spread of the disease.
Source: Health Affairs
Jul 24, 2020 - President Donald Trump signed four Executive Orders on drug pricing directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to take several steps to deliver lower costs on prescription drugs. One action includes requiring Federally Qualified Health Centers who purchase insulins and epinephrine in the 340B program to pass the savings from discounted drug prices directly on to medically underserved patients.
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Jul 23, 2020 - Rural social workers already work with limited resources and unique challenges, but with COVID-19, new issues have emerged as children are unable to go to school where they may receive the majority of their support. Details the challenges facing rural social workers as they work from home and discusses ways they can prepare if another wave of COVID-19 hits.
Source: National Rural Health Association
Jul 23, 2020 - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released science-based resources and tools for school administrators, teachers, parents, guardians, and caregivers to support the safe opening of schools this fall. A media telebriefing on July 24, 2020 discusses these new resources on guiding decision-making on attending in-person curriculum and adapting to local conditions.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Jul 22, 2020 - Statement from Rear Admiral Michael Weahkee discusses the release of reports from the Presidential Task Force on Protecting Native American Children in the Indian Health Service (IHS) system that provide recommendations to improve patient protection policies and procedures. Describes the agency's commitment to keep patients safe, including information on IHS efforts and actions individuals can take to prevent sexual abuse in the IHS system.
Source: Indian Health Service
Jul 22, 2020 - Describes several new Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) initiatives designed to protect nursing home residents from COVID-19. Initiatives include $5 billion in funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for Medicare-certified long term care facilities and state veterans' homes; requiring nursing homes with a 5% positivity rate or higher to test all staff each week; and additional technical assistance and support to nursing homes.
Source: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Jul 22, 2020 - Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, rural hospitals had to cancel elective surgeries and other profitable operations. Months later, some are facing a surge of infected patients. Describes how federal funding has helped rural hospitals hold on, but for facilities that were struggling before the pandemic, the future is uncertain.
Source: Pew Charitable Trusts

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