In response to the novel coronavirus (COVID19) pandemic, NOSORH hosted a series of listening sessions with the 50 State Offices of Rural Health. Three calls were held during the week of March 16, 2020 to identify the challenges and opportunities that SORH are hearing from their constituents. This report documents the resulting identified rural challenges and concerns, innovative rural strategies, opportunities for collaboration, needed rural resources, and identified areas of concern or suggestions for SORH-managed federal programs.
National Rural Health Day continues to be successful because of support from our members and partners. NOSORH is proud of the reach and impact this program has year after year as we work to bring new programs, ideas, events, and opportunities to celebrate the #PowerofRural – 2019 was no exception!
Below you’ll find a new fact sheet that highlights the impact of National Rural Health Day 2019 at the local, state and national level. Check it out!
Mark your calendar for Thursday, November 20, and stay tuned for the roll out of resources for the 2020 National Rural Health Day and Power of Rural campaign!
Thank you for all you do to transform this moment into a movement!
Last month, NOSORH and 22 State Offices of Rural Health attended the National Rural Health Association’s Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. “NRHA did a great job of bringing together policymakers and rural stakeholders in a jam-packed week focused on rural health,” said Teryl Eisinger, NOSORH CEO.
During the week, NOSORH spent multiple days meeting with members and staff on Capitol Hill. With the prospect of major rural health legislation being advanced by Congress this May, NOSORH used the visits to remind Congress on the importance of rural health and advocate for continued funding for the SORH and Flex programs. It is anticipated in rural health circles that Congress could advance rural health legislation as part of a larger health package, including surprise medical billing.
A highlight of the NOSORH effort during the Institute was presentation of the NOSORH Legislator of the Year Award to Representative Kurt Schrader (OR 5th District). This award recognizes an outstanding individual federal legislator for their work and support of rural health initiatives that address national rural healthcare needs. Congressman Schrader’s district runs from the Pacific Ocean to the Cascade Mountains with 22 certified Rural Health Clinics, 6 rural hospitals, 17 rural EMS agencies and 2 tribal clinics. He is a leading member of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Health and in 2018 was the lead Democrat sponsor of the State Offices of Rural Health Reauthorization bill.
The award was presented by Bob Duehmig, Deputy Director of the Oregon Office of Rural Health, during a meeting of rural Oregon constituents and members of the Oregon Office of Rural Health. “It was great to see Bob and his state team getting right to the heart of what matters in rural Oregon with Representative Schrader. Bob facilitated the discussion with each member of that state team ready with simple, meaningful input for Mr. Schrader,” said Eisinger.
Duehmig was one of the 46 state coordinators NRHA taps to help organize Hill visits during the Institute. Ten other SORH also served in this role. Thanks to the NRHA for sharing data and their great work of making our voice louder and building the momentum!
Fiscal Year 2021 Budget Request Sent to Congress
On February 10, the Trump Administration released their Fiscal Year 2021 budget request to Congress. Similar to previous years, HHS requested Congress make significant cuts to both discretionary and mandatory programs across the board. Within the HRSA budget, both the State Offices of Rural Health (SORH) and the Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility (Flex) grant program lines were zeroed out for FY 2021. Also from the HRSA budget, the Administration asked for an increase for Rural Health Outreach Grants by $10M. Funding for the Rural Residency program was not provided.
While the annual budget proposal provides a peek into an Administration’s priorities, it is non-binding on Congress. The budget process for Congress begins in March with over 50 appropriations committee hearings scheduled throughout the month. Congress will also deal with supplemental funding for the Coronavirus. While HHS is expected to reprogram funding from HHS, HRSA funding is not believed to be impacted.
NOSORH will work to ensure Congress continues to fund the SORH program at its statutorily authorized level of $12,500,000 million.
Rural Health-Related Bills Introduced
Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) introduced H.R. 5924. The bill seeks to amend the Public Health Service Act to authorize a loan repayment program to encourage specialty medicine physicians to serve in rural communities experiencing a shortage of specialty medicine physicians.
Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-TX) introduced H.R. 5808 to amend Title XVIII of the Social Security Act to provide coverage of rural emergency medical access services under the Medicare program.
Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA) introduced H.R. 5681, the Protecting Communities from Hospital Closures Act of 2020.
The Rural Health Data Institute (RHDI) is a series of educational webinars designed to establish a minimum data-use skill set for those working with rural health data. The sessions are designed for those with little or no knowledge of the data use process.
RHDI starts by throwing the term “research” out the window and defining terms in a way that everybody can understand. It moves through the process of collecting your data, cleaning it up, and analyzing it in a way that makes sense. Later sessions help participants work through the steps of crafting their messaging and displaying it in a visualized way so other people can understand it too. By doing very small “homework” assignments aligned to the data use process, participants will end the RHDI with a one-page infographic fact sheet.
The Institute is open to rural health professionals, including clinical, administrative and academic personnel.
Attendees will participate in 8 live, weekly webinars with supplemental reading and optional homework assignments. Session surveys and a final evaluation are required.
Webinar sessions will be held:
Every Tuesday from May 12 – June 30, 2020
1:30–3:00 pm EST
Registration Deadline: May 1, 2020
Contact Chris Salyers, NOSORH Education & Services Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information.
Understanding the data points that characterize rural communities ensures State Offices of Rural Health have a solid base for providing technical assistance and targeting resources to areas of highest need.
The Manual outlines the following steps:
1. Defining rural for your state
2. Identifying your questions
3. Compiling your dataset
4. Answering your questions
Links to additional resources are included to further refine skills.
The Rural Health Data Institute (RHDI) is a set of eight 90-minute web-based sessions designed to establish a minimum data-use skill set for those working with rural health data. The sessions are designed for those with little or no knowledge of the data use process.
RHDI starts by throwing the term “research” out the window and defining terms in a way that everybody can understand. It moves through the process of collecting your data, cleaning it up, and analyzing it in a way that makes sense. Later sessions help participants work through the steps of crafting their messaging and displaying it in a visualized way so other people can understand it too. By doing very small “homework” assignments aligned to the data use process, participants will end the RHDI with a one-page infographic fact sheet to do whatever they want with it: hang on the fridge in the break room or, better yet, disseminate it to your partners!
Rural Health Package Being Considered by Congress
With the Senators preoccupied with impeachment hearings during January, Congressional staff continue to work on advancing health care legislation in 2020. In May, Congress will need to reauthorize or extend a number of health care programs whose funding expires on May 22, 2020.
The May 22 deadline creates a potential vehicle for Congress to pass broader health care legislation, including surprise billing, drug pricing and rural health. While optimism abounds off the Hill for a broad rural health care package, look for a narrower, more targeted package being unveiled by the Senate Finance Committee. The cost of the legislative proposal will play a factor with the more expensive bills most likely not being included.
On the House side, it remains to be seen if the Ways and Means Committee will introduce a broad bipartisan rural health bill. Members of the House Rural Health Task Force have been working on various rural health proposals with a timetable still uncertain.
With 2020 being a presidential election year, it is also unclear if both sides will work together to advance a more comprehensive health care bill to the President’s desk. The inability of Congress to advance surprise billing at the end of 2019 suggests rough waters could await politically for health care legislation in 2020.
Rural Health Bills Introduced in the Senate
In December, a broad bipartisan and bicameral rural health bill was introduced in the House and Senate. The Rural Hospital Closure Relief Act (H.R. 5481/S. 3103) seeks to allow a limited number of rural PPS hospitals to convert to Critical Access Hospitals.
The Senate bill was introduced by Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Dick Durbin (D-IL). The bill sponsors are hoping the bill will advance as part of a broader rural health package being put together by Senate Finance Chairman Grassley. NOSORH, along with the NRHA, has endorsed this bill.
Also recently introduced was the bipartisan Improving Access to Health Care in Rural and Underserved Act. The bill, S. 3194, was sponsored by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV). The bill would create a five-year pilot program that provides funding for up to 100 FQHCs and RHCs to boost capacity in specific areas of medical need.