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Rural Health Policy News

News stories from the past 60 days.

Sen. Hatch Pushes Bipartisan Effort to Renew Funding for Rural Counties, Schools
Dec 7, 2017 - Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) are leading a bi-partisan group of 32 senators advocating for a re-authorization of the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) Program to be included in any legislation proposed before the end of the year. The SRS program, which supports public schools, emergency services, and other essential services for more than 775 rural counties, expired in September of this year.
Source: KUTV
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USDA Promises New SNAP Flexibilities to Promote Self-Sufficiency
Dec 5, 2017 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will offer states greater local control over the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in an effort to promote self-sufficiency, integrity, and customer service. Specifics on these new flexibilities will be communicated to state agencies in the coming weeks.
Source: United States Department of Agriculture
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CMS Finalizes Changes to the Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement Model, Cancels Episode Payment Models and Cardiac Rehabilitation Incentive Payment Model
Nov 30, 2017 - The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) implemented changes to the Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement (CJR) Model. CMS also finalized the cancellation of the mandatory hip fracture and cardiac bundled payment models that were to be operated by the CMS Innovation Center. A fact sheet is available.
Source: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
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CMS Releases Its Measures Under Consideration List for 2018 Pre-Rulemaking
Nov 30, 2017 - Blog post from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announcing that they have released the annual list of quality and cost measures that are under consideration for Medicare quality reporting and value-based purchasing programs. CMS collaborates with the National Quality Forum (NQF) to get input from stakeholders on this list in order to provide more high quality care and achieve better individual outcomes.
Source: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Blog
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Industry Voices—the FCC's Rural Health Care Fund Is a Victim of Its Own Success
Nov 27, 2017 - The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued a proposal to increase the $400 million annual cap on the Rural Health Care Fund. Among other things, this proposal would target funding to rural and tribal healthcare providers and prioritize the distribution of grants based on remoteness, type of service requested, whether the funding will come from the Telecom Program or the Healthcare Connect Fund, and the economic need of the provider's population.
Source: FierceHealthcare
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CMS Updates Medicare Advantage Value-Based Insurance Design (VBID) Model for 2019
Nov 22, 2017 - The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced updates to the Medicare Advantage Value-Based Insurance Design (VBID) Model for 2019 to expand into an additional fifteen states, allow Chronic Condition Special Needs Plans to participate, and allow participants to propose their own systems or methods for identifying eligible enrollees.
Source: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
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Massachusetts Grabs Spotlight By Proposing New Twist On Medicaid Drug Coverage
Nov 21, 2017 - Highlights the Massachusetts state Medicaid program's demonstration proposal, submitted to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The proposal would allow the state to negotiate discounts for prescription drugs and to exclude drugs with limited treatment value. Discusses possible ramifications if this proposal were approved and implemented.
Source: Kaiser Health News
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Trump Administration Moves to Alter Drug Discount Program That Many Rural Hospitals Rely On
Nov 21, 2017 - Details the 340B prescription drug program that allows hospitals serving low-income patients to buy medication at a discount and sell it to local pharmacies in order to bolster their bottom lines. In rural areas, this program has prevented hospital closures. A final rule from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2018 would reduce funding for hospitals in the program. Includes commentary from both those who support and those who oppose the rule.
Source: KBIA
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USDA Rural Development Announces New Executive Leadership
Nov 20, 2017 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development announced the appointment of several new executive leaders including a Chief Innovation Officer to lead the Rural Development Innovation Center and a Director of External Affairs to manage legislative and public affairs activities.
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Development
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Administrator’s Blog: National Rural Health Day (November 16, 2017)
Nov 16, 2017 - Blog post from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) from CMS Administrator Seema Verma on the topic of National Rural Health Day. Touches on challenges faced by rural communities like physician recruitment and what CMS will do to mitigate those challenges and help improve rural health.
Source: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Blog
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Ways & Means Committee Leaders Announce Bipartisan Medicare Extenders Package
Nov 15, 2017 - The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means announced a bipartisan agreement to extend several expiring Medicare payment policies, including the Medicare Dependent Hospital Program and the Low-Volume Adjustment Program. The agreement includes offsetting the cost of these extensions with funding from other programs, including payments for Critical Access Hospital swing beds.
Source: U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means
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HRSA: National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Human Services; Notice of Correction Federal Register
Nov 13, 2017 - Corrects the effective date of the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Human Services' (NACRHHS) charter renewal, which was incorrectly printed in the original October 31, 2017, notice. The effective date for the renewed charter is October 29, 2017.
Source: Federal Register
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Trump Picks Alex Azar To Lead Health And Human Services
Nov 13, 2017 - President Donald Trump has nominated Alex Azar to be the next Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). Details Azar's professional history including his previous position as deputy HHS Secretary under President George W. Bush and the five years he spent working for the pharmaceutical company Lilly.
Source: NPR
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Speech: Remarks by Administrator Seema Verma at the National Association of Medicaid Directors (NAMD) 2017 Fall Conference
Nov 7, 2017 - Speech given by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seem Verma at the National Association of Medicaid Directors (NAMD) 2017 Fall Conference. Discusses intentions to increase flexibility for state Medicaid plans, including allowing states to require physically capable individuals to be working, volunteering, or attending school or job training in order to qualify for Medicaid, among other things.
Source: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
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CMS Won’t Cover Telehealth in Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program
Nov 3, 2017 - The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) declined to cover virtual weight management coaching programs in the Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program, citing concerns that the mHealth and telehealth platform isn't reliable enough. CMS will, however, consider testing the platform in a Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) demonstration project. Advocates for the platform are concerned that lack of reimbursement will threaten access to these services for rural patients.
Source: mHealthIntelligence
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Perdue Announces Farm Service Agency and Rural Development State Directors
Nov 3, 2017 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced new Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Rural Development (RD) State Directors. FSA State Directors help implement USDA policies in planning, organizing, and administering FSA programs, while RD State Directors work to help improve the economy and quality of life in rural America.
Source: United States Department of Agriculture
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CMS Finalizes Policies that Reduce Provider Burden, Lower Drug Prices
Nov 2, 2017 - The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) highlights two final rules, to be published in the Federal Register on November 15 and 16th respectively. The 2018 Physician Fee Schedule final rule will modernize the Medicare payment system to create greater competition in the biopharmaceutical market to lower costs. The Quality Payment Program final rule allows clinicians in small and rural practices to join together and share the responsibility of participating in value-based payments. This rule also decreases the number of clinicians required to participate, provides additional detail on clinician participation in Advanced Alternative Payment Models (APMs), and includes a new hardship exception for small practices affected by the recent hurricanes.
Source: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
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HHS: Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; HHS Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters for 2019 Federal Register
Nov 2, 2017 - Proposed rule from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) setting forth payment parameters and provisions related to risk adjustments, cost-sharing reductions, and user fees for federally-facilitated and state-based Exchanges. Proposed changes seek to enhance state flexibility in determining essential health benefits (EHBs), certifying qualified health plans (QHPs), and establishing Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Exchanges. Comments regarding the proposed rule must be submitted no later than 5:00 p.m. Eastern on November 27, 2017.
Source: Federal Register
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CMS Announces New Medicaid Policy to Combat the Opioid Crisis by Increasing Access to Treatment Options
Nov 1, 2017 - The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a new policy allowing states to design demonstration projects to increase access to treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD) and other substance use disorders (SUD). This announcement also includes the immediate approval of demonstration waivers for New Jersey and Utah under this new policy.
Source: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
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CMS Finalizes Policies that Lower Out-of-Pocket Drug Costs and Increase Access to High-Quality Care
Nov 1, 2017 - The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced two Medicare payment rules. The Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System and Ambulatory Surgical Center Payment System and Quality Reporting Programs Changes for 2018 rule is using the 340B Program to reduce the cost of Medicare Part B drugs for hospitals in order to pass those savings on to beneficiaries. It also places a two-year moratorium on the direct physician supervision requirements for rural hospitals and Critical Access Hospitals. The Home Health Prospective Payment System rule will move towards a more patient-centered model.
Source: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
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EOP: Combatting the National Drug Demand and Opioid Crisis Federal Register
Oct 31, 2017 - Official memorandum from the Executive Office of the President (EOP) outlining the Administration's policy for addressing the opioid crisis, and directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to declare a public health emergency.
Source: Federal Register
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HRSA: National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Human Services Federal Register
Oct 31, 2017 - Announces the charter renewal for the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Human Services (NACRHHS), which provides advice to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) on issues concerning the financing and provision of healthcare in rural areas. Effective October 31, 2017, the renewed charter authorizes the NACRHHS through October 31, 2019.
Source: Federal Register
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CMS Administrator Verma Announces New Meaningful Measures Initiative and Addresses Regulatory Reform; Promotes Innovation at LAN Summit
Oct 30, 2017 - The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma announced a new approach to quality measurement called "Meaningful Measures," which involves only assessing the core issues that are vital to providing high-quality care and improving patient outcomes. This outcome-based approach is part of an effort to streamline quality measures, reduce regulatory burden, and promote innovation.
Source: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
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CMS OKs Iowa Medicaid Waiver That Worried Hospitals
Oct 30, 2017 - The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) approved a waiver that will allow Iowa to end retroactive coverage for Medicaid beneficiaries. Providers had been able to bill Medicaid for services provided in the three months before the patient applied for Medicaid as long as the patient was eligible in that time. Hospitals have expressed concern at the change, which may increase the amount of bad debt they carry, while proponents argue that this will encourage people to maintain coverage even when healthy. (May require registration for full article.)
Source: Modern Healthcare
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SAMHSA Reaffirms Efforts to Address the Public Health Emergency on the Opioid Crisis
Oct 26, 2017 - Details the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA) efforts to address the opioid epidemic and the strategies from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that are guiding SAMHSA's efforts going forward. These include improving access to treatment and recovery services, improving availability and distribution of overdose-reversing drugs, and strengthening public health data reporting and collection, among other things.
Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
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EOP: Promoting Healthcare Choice and Competition Across the United States Federal Register
Oct 17, 2017 - Executive order designed to facilitate the purchase of health insurance across state lines, increase health plan choice and competition, and improve access to affordable healthcare by focusing on three main areas: association health plans (AHPs), short-term, limited duration insurance (STLDI), and health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs).
Source: Federal Register
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EOP: Notification of a Public Meeting of the President's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis (Commission) Federal Register
Oct 16, 2017 - The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) will hold its fifth meeting on Wednesday, November 1, 2017, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Eastern. The meeting will include personal stories about coping with addiction, and a discussion and voting on the Commission's final report, which will be posted on ONDCP's website shortly before the meeting begins. Meeting participation will be available via livestreaming.
Source: Federal Register
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Last Updated: 12/8/2017