Rural Health
Top Stories

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

Broadband Offers a Telehealth Lifeline to Rural Hospitals
Mar 29, 2017 - Discusses the relationship between access to high-speed, reliable broadband and the use of telemedicine in rural areas. While rural areas arguably have the most to gain from telehealth usage, they are often limited by a lack of broadband infrastructure. A recent report from NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association highlights the potential benefits and pending challenges.
Source: mHealth Intelligence
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County Health Rankings Show Drug Overdose Deaths Are Fueling a Dramatic Increase in Premature Deaths Nationally
Mar 29, 2017 - Based on the recently released 2017 County Health Rankings, premature death rates are increasing across the U.S. among 15-44 year-olds. While many issues contribute to the increase, drug overdoses among 25-44 year olds is the primary driver. The statistics show that suburbs, smaller metro areas, and rural communities have the highest rates of premature death due to drug overdoses. Among racial groups, Native Americans and whites have the highest rates of premature death due to drug overdoses.
Source: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
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Facing Closure, Community Health Centers Urge Congress to Continue Funding
Mar 28, 2017 - Approximately 2,500 health center workers made their way to Washington, D.C. to lobby federal lawmakers and urge them to renew funding for community health centers. Across the U.S., more than 1,200 community health centers provide care for roughly 25 million patients annually, most of whom are low-income. This is the last year funds are appropriated for the program unless Congress chooses to extend it.
Source: Modern Healthcare
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5 States with the Most Rural Hospital Closures
Mar 27, 2017 - Lists the five states with the highest number of rural hospital closures since 2010. Research was conducted by the North Carolina Rural Health Research Program, and includes the name and city of each closed hospital. Closure is defined as the cessation in the provision of inpatient services.
Source: Becker's Healthcare
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Tennessee Rural Hospitals Show $994 Million Impact on State's Economy, Report Says
Mar 22, 2017 - Discusses the cumulative economic impact of Tennessee's 61 rural hospitals, based on the Tennessee Hospital Association's 2017 Rural Impact Report.
Source: Healthcare Finance
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Population Health Management May Worsen Physician Shortage
Mar 22, 2017 - Discusses the growing issue of physician shortage in the United States, with a projected shortfall of up to 88,000 physicians by 2025. Describes contributing factors, such as physician retirement and burnout caused by the pressure of regulatory demands. Also details new research showing that if the U.S. were to achieve its Healthy People 2020 population health goals, people may live longer, which could eventually make the physician shortage worse, particularly in rural areas.
Source: HealthIT Analytics
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New Program Aims to Quell Fears and Improve Health for People With HIV
Mar 21, 2017 - The University of Virginia School of Medicine has developed an online program for people with HIV who are not taking their medications and who have or have had substance abuse problems. Researchers realized that, especially in rural areas, stigma and fear of being outed as HIV positive were preventing people from taking their prescription medications. This multi-week online program, Pos4Health, provides support and education in an effort to reduce these fears.
Source: UVAToday
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A Conversation with Pat Schou
Mar 21, 2017 - Radio interview with Pat Schou, the Executive Director of the Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network and the Illinois Rural Community Care Organization. Discussion includes hospital closures, reimbursement rates, and the collaborative work involved in the creation and continued success of the Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network, among other things.
Source: Rural Health Leadership Radio
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Top Rural Community Hospitals Announced
Mar 20, 2017 - Presents the 20 highest ranked rural community hospitals in the U.S. based on eight factors: inpatient market share, outpatient market share, quality, outcomes, patient perspectives, costs, charges, and financial stability. These hospitals will be recognized during an award ceremony at NRHA’s Rural Health Innovation Hospital Summit on May 11, 2017, in San Diego, California.
Source: National Rural Health Association
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Tapping Telehealth for Complex Cases
Mar 20, 2017 - Highlights how advanced telehealth systems are expanding specialty care into rural areas of the country and some of the possibilities and challenges of this expansion.
Source: Modern Healthcare
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Suicide Rates On The Rise In U.S., Especially In Rural Areas — CDC
Mar 18, 2017 - Details the findings of a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on suicide in the U.S. from 1999 to 2015. This report found that people in rural communities, especially white and Native Americans, have the highest rates of suicide.
Source: Vocativ
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6 Charts That Illustrate the Divide Between Rural and Urban America
Mar 16, 2017 - Highlights some important differences between rural and urban areas of the country, including poverty rates, job growth, the rate of disabilities, and levels of entrepreneurship. Includes charts to illustrate these differences.
Source: The Conversation
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March 2017 Report to Congress on Medicaid and CHIP
Mar 16, 2017 - The Medicaid Payment Advisory Commission (MACPAC) released its March 2017 Report to Congress on Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which recommends an extension of federal CHIP funding through FY 2022, includes information on monitoring Medicaid beneficiaries' access to healthcare, and presents the Commission's statutorily required analysis of Medicaid disproportionate share hospital (DSH) payments, which shows the continued financial distress of many safety-net hospitals and reviews various approaches to raising the minimum federal eligibility criteria for DSH payments.
Source: Medicaid Payment Advisory Commission
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What You Need to Know About Hospital Roles in Community Investment
Mar 15, 2017 - Explores the potential role of hospitals as anchor institutions - institutions that leverage their resources to improve their communities. Provides examples of how hospitals are making an impact and improving the overall health of their communities.
Source: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
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Medicare Payment Advisory Commission Releases Report On Medicare Payment Policy
Mar 15, 2017 - The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) released its March 2017 Report to the Congress: Medicare Payment Policy which provides a review of Medicare Advantage (MA) and Part D, the prescription drug benefit, as well as an analysis of payment adequacy in fee-for-service (FFS) Medicare.
Source: Medicare Payment Advisory Commission
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ST Medical Monday: "Maternal Health Care Is Disappearing in Rural America"
Mar 14, 2017 - Radio interview with Dina Fine Maron, who recently published the article "Maternal Health Care Is Disappearing in Rural America" in the Scientific American. Only 6% of practicing OB/GYNs in the country work in rural areas. Interview covers the causes of declining access to maternal healthcare in rural areas as well as some potential solutions.
Source: Public Radio Tulsa
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Secretary Price and CMS Administrator Verma Take First Joint Action: Affirm Partnership of HHS, CMS, and States to Improve Medicaid Program
Mar 14, 2017 - U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price, M.D. and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma sent a joint letter to state governors affirming their intent to work with states to improve the Medicaid program through increased flexibility and innovation.
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
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A Conversation with Toniann Richard
Mar 14, 2017 - Radio interview with Toniann Richard, the CEO of the Health Care Collaborative of Rural Missouri (HCC), a rural health network in Missouri, and president of the Missouri Rural Health Association. Discussion includes challenges related to reimbursements, the work of the HCC and the Missouri Health Association to address social determinants of health, and importance of rural health leaders being invested in the communities they serve, among other things.
Source: Rural Health Leadership Radio
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HRSA: Notice of Meeting: National Advisory Council on the National Health Service Corps Federal Register
Mar 14, 2017 - The National Advisory Council on the National Health Service Corps (NACNHSC) will hold an open meeting on March 22, 2017 from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern to discuss provider retention in rural areas, the redesign of Area Health Education Centers (AHECs), and provide an update on Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) scoring. The meeting may be attended via webinar or conference call, and the final agenda will be available on the NACNHSC website three days in advance.
Source: Federal Register
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By Law, Hospitals Now Must Tell Medicare Patients When Care Is ‘Observation’ Only
Mar 13, 2017 - Details the newly-implemented law requiring hospitals to notify Medicare patients when they are getting observation care rather than being admitted as an inpatient and to provide those patients with an explanation as to why this decision was made. As nursing home care is not covered under Medicare unless the patient has been hospitalized, this distinction can be an important one to prevent patients and their families from being blindsided by the costs. However, there are those who argue that while this may be less confusing, it doesn't solve the problem of nursing home care not being covered.
Source: Kaiser Health News
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Wait Times Still High for Veterans in VA Choice Program
Mar 13, 2017 - The Veterans Choice Program allows veterans to visit a provider outside of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) for several reasons, including if the wait time for a medical appointment at a VHA facility is greater than 30 days. However, a recent study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that under this program, veterans still waited an average of 24 days to receive care.
Source: Health Payer Intelligence
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Mental Health Issues for Farmers and Their Families Often Remain Hidden
Mar 10, 2017 - Details the obstacles faced by many farmers in receiving mental healthcare despite the fact that their need is significant. Farmers have a higher suicide rate than veterans and any of the standard occupational classification groups studied by the CDC. Yet many rural areas have few, if any, behavioral health providers, and many do not specialize in working with farm and ranch families.
Source: Lancaster Farming
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Disconnected Youth: Growing up Jobless and Rootless in Rural America
Mar 9, 2017 - The Social Science Research Council's Measure of America (MOA) project released a report which focused on the percentage of young adults who are neither working nor in school. The national average is 12.3%, while in rural areas it is 20.3% and in rural counties in the South it is 24%. Factors contributing to this "disconnection" include high child poverty rates, lower rates of adults with college degrees, fewer school resources, poor physical health, psychological trauma, unsafe housing, and finishing high school with low literacy and numeracy skills.
Source: Yahoo! News
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IHS Announces Pilot Program for Child Trauma-Informed Integrated Care
Mar 7, 2017 - The Indian Health Service (IHS) announced a year-long pilot project to integrate trauma-informed care at IHS and tribal facilities. Ten IHS and tribally-run sites have been selected in Oklahoma, New Mexico, South Dakota, Michigan, and Nevada. IHS is collaborating with the Johns Hopkins Center for Mental Health Services in Pediatric Care's Pediatric Integrated Care Collaborative (PICC) which works to improve the quality and accessibility of child trauma services in Native communities.
Source: Indian Health Service
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A Conversation with Nikki King
Mar 7, 2017 - Radio interview with Nikki King, an Administrative Fellow at a Critical Access Hospital in Indiana. Discussion primarily focused on the opioid epidemic, its roots in rural Kentucky, and the rural-specific challenges faced in trying to address it, including the impact of longer EMS response times, reimbursement rates, and too few mental healthcare providers, among other things.
Source: Rural Health Leadership Radio
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GOP Bill Would Repeal Obamacare Taxes And Penalties, Keep Some Subsidies
Mar 6, 2017 - Provides an overview of the proposed plan to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and explains some of the changes. Also discusses some of the positive and negative reactions to this bill from both sides of the political aisle.
Source: NPR
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Despite Federal Law, Some Rural Hospitals Still Turn Away Women in Labor
Mar 3, 2017 - Highlights the growing number of rural obstetrics departments closing as a part of a larger discussion about violations of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA). This law requires all U.S. hospitals with emergency rooms to treat patients in labor, even if they do not have obstetricians or obstetric departments. Because women in rural areas tend to live further away from care and their pregnancies tend to be riskier than their urban counterparts, violations of this law can end disastrously.
Source: ProPublica
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Study Finds Effective Interventions to Prevent Alcohol Use among American Indian and Rural Youth
Mar 1, 2017 - A study supported by the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that community-based and individual-level prevention strategies are effective at reducing alcohol use among American Indian and other rural youth. This study, which was conducted in the 14 counties of northeastern Oklahoma that comprise the Cherokee Nation jurisdictional area, is particularly significant because American Indians and rural communities have been underrepresented in studies aimed at finding solutions for underage drinking.
Source: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
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A Conversation with Joanie Perkins
Feb 28, 2017 - Radio interview with Joanie Perkins, the Chief Compliance Officer at a Critical Access Hospital in Mississippi. Discussion included work on telehealth programs, providing health screenings for children in schools, and importance of promoting the successes achieved at the local level in rural health, among other things.
Source: Rural Health Leadership Radio
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The Future of Health Care Is Outside the Doctor's Office
Feb 28, 2017 - In-depth look at Community Health Workers and the important work they do to reach people in rural and underserved communities. Explores the history of Community Health Workers, the gaps in healthcare that they frequently fill, and obstacles to incorporating them into the healthcare system, including concerns about their roles and how they are reimbursed.
Source: Governing
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Health Care Dominates Rural Action Caucus Meeting
Feb 26, 2017 - Details the National Association of Counties' Rural Action Caucus meeting which focused on challenges faced by rural counties. Speaker Diane Calmus from the National Rural Health Association shared data highlighting health-related issues in rural areas, including higher rates of death, concerns about access to care, hospital closures, Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements, and recruiting and retaining healthcare workers to rural areas.
Source: National Association of Counties
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Health Insurance Woes Add To The Risky Business Of Farming
Feb 21, 2017 - Details the impact high healthcare costs have on many farmers and the growing concerns over healthcare changes. There is particular concern that these costs could discourage young people from taking up farming, which is an aging industry. In 2012, the number of new farmers decreased by 20% from five years prior.
Source: NPR
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Growing Accessibility of Opioids in Rural Areas
Feb 21, 2017 - Discusses the opioid epidemic, focusing specifically on rural areas in Kentucky and West Virginia. In these areas, the number of prescription opioids being received by pharmacies is extremely high when compared to the population. Unsurprisingly, these areas also have high rates of hospitalizations and overdoses due to abuse of opioids. Also addresses the social and economic realities which may have contributed to the use of opioids and the barriers faced by rural people seeking healthcare services to help with addiction.
Source: Community Commons
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Solving The Rural Health Care Access Crisis With The Freestanding Emergency Center Care Model
Feb 21, 2017 - Highlights the economic difficulties faced by many rural hospitals and offers Freestanding Emergency Centers (FECs) as a potential solution. FECs can still provide urgent and emergency care to rural communities without the same costs that are inherent to hospitals. Barriers to the dissemination of FECs are also discussed.
Source: Health Affairs Blog
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A Conversation with Mark Hamed
Feb 21, 2017 - Radio interview with Mark Hamed, the Medical Director of the Departments of Emergency and Hospitalist Medicine at a Critical Access Hospital in Michigan. Hamed is also a faculty member at three medical schools and spearheaded an initiative to combat opioid abuse. Discussion includes rural health policy, substance abuse, and healthcare quality, among other things.
Source: Rural Health Leadership Radio
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CMS Awards Approximately $100 Million to Help Small Practices Succeed in the Quality Payment Program
Feb 17, 2017 - The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) awarded approximately $20 million to 11 organizations to provide training and education about the Quality Payment Program to small practices, especially in historically underserved areas like rural areas, health professional shortage areas, and medically underserved areas. This is the first year of a five-year program; CMS intends to invest an additional $80 million over the next four years.
Source: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
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HIV/AIDS in Rural America
Feb 16, 2017 - Details the specific obstacles faced by rural people with HIV or AIDS. They are less likely to get tested and, for those who do get tested, the virus is more likely to have advanced to AIDS. They are less likely to stay in care and more likely to internalize stigmas. Because of this stigma and concern over their condition being discovered, they are also often burdened with traveling long distances to urban areas to be tested or treated to avoid the notice of people in their communities.
Source: Health Resources & Services Administration
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Senators Reintroduce Legislation to Aid Rural Hospitals
Feb 16, 2017 - The office of U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) announced that Isakson, along with five other senators, had introduced legislation to correct what is described as a flawed formula for determining Medicare payments. The Fair Medicare Hospital Payments Act of 2017 would establish a national minimum area wage index that would provide rural and low-income hospitals with more equitable Medicare payments.
Source: Office of U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson
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Senators Highlight Need for Quality Health Care in Rural America
Feb 15, 2017 - In a bipartisan letter to the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, 41 U.S. Senators emphasized the importance of rural healthcare and expressed their desire work with Price to avoid any federal regulations that would negatively impact rural communities.
Source: Office of U.S. Senator Roger Wicker
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2016-2025 Projections of National Health Expenditures Data Released
Feb 15, 2017 - A report authored by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' (CMS) Office of the Actuary (OACT) and published by Health Affairs found that national health expenditure growth is expected to average 5.6% annually from 2016-2025. This report also projects, among other things, that the health share of GDP will rise approximately 2 percentage points from 2015 to 2025.
Source: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
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Chairman Smith Opening Statement at Hearing on the Geography of Poverty
Feb 15, 2017 - Opening statement from the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee Chairman Adrian Smith (R-NE) at a Subcommittee hearing entitled "The Geography of Poverty." Discusses poverty in rural and remote areas and the importance of federal policies that support employment opportunities in communities with high poverty rates.
Source: U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means
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CMS Issues Proposed Rule to Increase Patients’ Health Insurance Choices for 2018
Feb 15, 2017 - The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a proposed rule for 2018 that aims to stabilize individual and small group health insurance markets. The rule would impact special enrollment periods, the annual open enrollment period, guaranteed availability, network adequacy rules, essential community providers, and actuarial value requirements. It also announced upcoming changes to the qualified health plan certification timeline.
Source: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
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Maternal Health Care Is Disappearing in Rural America
Feb 15, 2017 - Addresses the high demands for obstetrical and gynecological services in rural areas around the country, with a focus on Alabama. Highlights the various factors that contribute to this situation, including obstetrical wards closing, inability to recruit OB-GYNs to practice in rural areas, and the relative price of providing obstetrical and gynecological care.
Source: Scientific American
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Judge Upends Effort To Limit Charity Funding For Kidney Patients’ Insurance
Feb 14, 2017 - Highlights the potential challenges faced by dialysis patients with and without a new rule from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that would have gone into effect January 13, 2017, but was temporarily blocked by a federal judge. The rule would have required dialysis centers to inform insurers if the centers are making premium payments for people covered by marketplace plans, either directly or indirectly through a third party, allowing insurers to accept or deny the payments.
Source: Kaiser Health News
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VA Project Expands Clinical Pharmacy Services to Rural Veterans
Feb 13, 2017 - The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) Clinical Pharmacy Practice Office (CPPO) and its Office of Rural Health (ORH) are collaborating on a five year project to increase access to care for rural veterans. The $70 million project will place 115 new clinical pharmacy specialists in rural outpatient clinics. About half of these pharmacists will provide primary care services while the other half will provide mental health and pain management services.
Source: American Society of Health-System Pharmacists
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Hoeven Delivers Congressional Response to 2017 State of Indian Nations Address
Feb 13, 2017 - The Congressional Response, given by Senator John Hoeven (R-ND), to the 2017 State of Indian Nations address. Hoeven, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, touches on healthcare access and quality, veterans' health, homelessness and overcrowding, economic development as it relates to quality of life, the safety and well-being of children in foster care, and resources for victims of violent crimes, among other things.
Source: United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs
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Trump Travel Ban Spotlights U.S. Dependence On Foreign-Born Doctors
Feb 11, 2017 - Details the impacts the travel ban could have on the medical community, including international students who will be matched with U.S. residency programs in March and practicing doctors working under the J-1 Visa Waiver program who may choose not to visit their home country for fear that they will not be allowed back in to the U.S. International medical graduates make up approximately 25% of practicing doctors in the U.S., many of whom work in underserved areas.
Source: NPR
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Medical Memberships Fill Some Gaps When People Can't Afford Insurance
Feb 9, 2017 - Focuses on a medical membership clinic in a rural town in Missouri to explore the way medical memberships work and the appeal of this alternative model. Medical memberships charge patients a monthly fee for unlimited care, in this case primary care, and offer some labs and medications at wholesale prices. Patients do not pay co-pays, but also do not have coverage for specialty or emergency care.
Source: Side Effects Public Media
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New Federal Rules Will Require Home Health Agencies To Do Much More For Patients
Feb 9, 2017 - Details the changes associated with new federal regulations governing home health agency participation in Medicare and Medicaid. The new rules are aimed at providing better quality care that is more inclusive of patients and their families. They are scheduled to take effect in July.
Source: Kaiser Health News
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For Migrant Farmworker Families, a Head Start Builds Momentum
Feb 8, 2017 - Details the impact of the East Coast Migrant Head Start Project on migrant families with small children. This project operates 38 preschool centers on the east coast that provide children with an early childhood education, connect families with services, and create stability for both children and their parents.
Source: The Daily Yonder
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Guarding our Military’s Behavioral Health
Feb 8, 2017 - Blog post from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) on their partnership on the National Guard's Guard Your Health readiness campaign which provides behavioral health resources to current service members and veterans. Because of increased stress often faced by service members as well as increased risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury, service members experience high rates of substance abuse and suicide.
Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Blog
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Pharmacies Thrive Selling Opioids For Depressed Small Town Pain
Feb 8, 2017 - Focuses on a small town in Kentucky to provide a view of the opioid epidemic. The town, with eleven pharmacies for a population of 1,500 people, has been hit hard by prescription drug abuse. This area is one of the unhealthiest places in the country and also has one of the highest concentrations of Medicaid patients. Article includes county-by-county data on hydrocodone use.
Source: Kaiser Health News
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Drugmaker Kaleo Raises Price Of Lifesaving Drug By Thousands
Feb 7, 2017 - NPR interview with Kaiser Health News reporter Shefali Luthra on the price increase of a particular auto-injector of naloxone, an overdose-reversing drug that has been in considerable demand due to the opioid epidemic. The company in question donates many naloxone auto-injectors to first responders and requires no co-pay from people with private insurance, but some say these efforts do not do enough to offset the new $4,500 price tag.
Source: Kaiser Health News
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Isakson, Tester Applaud Committee Approval of Dr. David Shulkin as VA Secretary
Feb 7, 2017 - Announcement from the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs on the bipartisan committee approval of David Shulkin, M.D. to the position of Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The nomination will now move to a full senate vote.
Source: The United States Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs
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How Rural Hospitals Can Ensure Vulnerable Communities Continue to Get Care
Feb 7, 2017 - Details the panel discussion of several rural health leaders at the annual Rural Health Care Leadership Conference. Discussion included, among other things, innovative ways rural hospitals have kept themselves afloat, the findings of the American Hospital Association Task Force on Ensuring Access in Vulnerable Communities report, and the challenges as well as the potential of telemedicine for rural areas.
Source: Hospitals and Health Networks Magazine
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CMS Proposes 2018 Payment and Policy Updates for Medicare Health and Drug Plans
Feb 1, 2017 - The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released proposed changes to the Medicare Advantage and Part D Prescription Drug Programs. The updates for 2018 will result in a .25% increase, on average, for Medicare Advantage plans, which is described as being comparable to last year's update.
Source: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
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Medicare Patient Deaths Shortly after Leaving the ER Raise Questions about Rural Hospitals
Feb 1, 2017 - A new study found that hospitals with the lowest inpatient admission rates, often rural hospitals, had significantly higher rates of unexplained death within 7 days of being released from emergency departments. This study, looking at Medicare patient outcomes from 2007 to 2012, raises questions about allocation of resources, policies aimed at reducing unnecessary admissions, and issues related to limited staffing and patient access to transportation.
Source: STAT News
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Medicaid Enrollment Growth Higher in Urban Areas, New Study Finds
Jan 30, 2017 - Discusses the discrepancy in Medicaid growth rates between urban and rural areas. In states where Medicaid was not expanded, growth rates from 2012 to 2015 were 14% in metropolitan areas, but only 7% in rural areas. Differences were much smaller in states where Medicaid was expanded as part of the ACA.
Source: Medical Xpress
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