Daily Briefing

Around the nation: HHS to invest $60M in rural health care


HHS on Monday announced a $60 million investment in programs that will improve health care in rural communities, in today's bite-sized hospital and health industry news from the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Tennessee.

  • District of Columbia: HHS on Monday announced a $60 million investment in programs that will improve access to care in rural communities while growing the health care workforce. According to HHS, roughly $46 million will be allocated to job development, training, and placement for health care workers in rural and tribal communities. The investment will provide support to front-line health care workers, including dental hygienists, medical and dental assistants, and doulas. In total, the funding, which is part of the American Rescue Plan, will support 31 organizations in rural areas. Almost $10 million will be allocated to 13 organizations to support their efforts to establish new medical residency programs that aim to increase the number of physicians training. Roughly $3 million will be allocated to aid 15 organizations in their efforts to improve patient outcomes and the quality of care. In addition, three organizations will each receive $1 million to support their initiatives to improve access to care for veterans. (Cass, Becker's Hospital CFO Report, 8/9)
  • Maryland: CMS on Tuesday issued a final rule that removed prior authorization requirements for urgent procedures that involve knee and spine braces as regulators continue their evaluation of the approval process. In January, CMS announced plans to frequently update the list of medical equipment, prosthetic and orthotic procedures that require an insurers' approval before providers receive payment. The agency primarily looks for procedures that are high cost, low value, produce irregular billing patterns, or have been identified in a government report when adding items to the prior authorization list. According to CMS, regulators lift prior authorization requirements for treatments that are low cost, low risk, and high value. "This is a service that most would say doesn't need to have a barrier. Let's not put up barriers for clinical services that help people and are infrequently overused," said Mark Fendrick, a professor of internal medicine and health management and policy at the University of Michigan. "There's too much attention on how prior authorization is actually implemented as opposed to the services for which prior authorization is placed." (Kacik, Modern Healthcare, 8/9)
  • Tennessee: Over the course of six weeks, 23 children between the ages of 5 days and 3 months old were admitted to Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt University for parechovirus, according to a July 29 report from CDC. The illnesses were detected from April 12 to May 24 in 13 girls and 10 boys who were previously healthy. As of July 29, 21 patients had recovered with no complications. However, CDC noted that one child faced a risk of hearing loss and blood clots, and another had experienced persistent seizures and was expected to experience a significant delay in their development. According to CDC, the infections mark an "unusually large cluster" of parechovirus. (Traub, New York Times, 7/29)

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