The Biden administration initially chose Memorial Day as the target date to decide which route to take on infrastructure: bipartisan or through reconciliation (the process to pass legislation in the Senate by 50 votes). On Thursday, a group of Senate Republicans announced a counterplan for $928 billion in infrastructure spending, much lower than the president’s $2.2 trillion plan. It is unclear which route the administration and Congress will take. NRHA continues to talk with offices on both sides of the aisle about the needs of rural providers. Key issues include the need for capital for rural hospitals, 100 percent broadband connectivity in rural areas, and the need for additional investment in the health workforce. You can read NRHA’s full letter to Congressional leadership here. NRHA will keep members up to date on infrastructure talks as they develop on Capitol Hill.
Chiquita Brooks-LaSure Sworn in as CMS Administrator
On Thursday, Chiquita Brooks-LaSure was sworn in as the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). She was confirmed by the full Senate on Tuesday by a vote of 55-44.
Senate HELP Committee Passes Rural MOMS Act
The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) passed Senators Tina Smith (D-MN) and Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) Rural Maternal and Obstetric Modernization of Services (Rural MOMS) Act during this week’s executive session. Unfortunately, in rural America, pregnant women and new mothers have a significantly higher chance of dying from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth compared to their urban counterparts. This legislation provides needed investment in training and technology to offer greater maternal health services in rural America while taking significant strides to address the maternal mortality rate.
Important Federal Legislation to Watch
• H.R. 341: Ensuring Telehealth Expansion Act of 2021- Williams (R-TX)
• H.R. 769/S. 1491: Rural MOMS Act – Newhouse (R-WA); Smith (D-MN)
• H.R. 853: Closing Loopholes for Orphan Drugs Act – Welch (D-VT)
• H.R. 1538: Binational Health Strategies Act of 2021 – Escobar (D-TX)
• S. 104/H.R. 379: Improving Social Determinants of Health Act – Smith (D-MN); Barragan (D-CA)
• S. 54: Strengthening America’s Health Care Readiness Act- Durbin (D-IL)
• S. 368: Telehealth Modernization Act – Scott (R-SC)
• S. 644/H.R. 1639: Rural Hospital Closure Relief Act – Durbin (D-IL); Kinzinger (R-IL)
• H.R. 1887: Rural Hospital Support Act – Reed (R-NY)
• H.R. 1783: Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act – Clyburn (D-SC)
• S. 773: A bill to enable certain hospitals that were participating in or applied for the drug discount program under section 340B of the Public Health Service Act prior to the COVID-19 public health emergency to temporarily maintain eligibility for such program, and for other purposes – Thune (R-SD)
• S. 924: Rural America Health Corps Act – Blackburn (R-TN)
• H.R. 2228: To allow for payment of outpatient critical access hospital services furnished through telehealth under the Medicare program – Kildee (D-MI)
• H.R. 3259/S. 586: NOPAIN Act – Sewell (D-AL); Capito (R-WV)
• S. 999: Save Rural Hospitals Act of 2021 – Warner (D-VA)
• S. 1024/H.R.2255: Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act – Durbin (D-IL); Schneider (D-IL)
• S. 620: KEEP Telehealth Options Act of 2021 – Fischer (R-NE)
• H.R. 2454: To amend title XVIII to strengthen ambulance services furnished under part B of the Medicare program – Sewell (D-AL)
• S. 1512/H.R. 2903: CONNECT for Health Act – Schatz (D-HI); Thompson (D-CA)
• S. 165/H.R. 588: Stopping the Mental Health Pandemic Act – Smith (D-MN); Porter (D-CA)
HRSA Releases Rural Health Clinic Vaccine Confidence Program NOFO
On May 4, the White House announced they will make over $100 million available to support rural health clinics across the country to support vaccine outreach in rural communities. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has announced the availability of the notice of funding opportunity announcement titled the Rural Health Clinic (RHC) Vaccine Confidence Program. The purpose of the program is to support rural health clinics as they work towards improving vaccine confidence, counter vaccine hesitancy, and help with access to the vaccination in rural communities that are experiencing low COVID-19 vaccination rates. Eligible applicants include Medicare-certified RHCs and organizations that own and operate Medicare-certified RHCs. HRSA has streamlined the application process. Every eligible RHC that applies will be funded. For further information on the NOFO, please visit Grants.Gov and for additional information regarding the program, please email RHCVaxConfidence@hrsa.gov.
HRSA Community-Based Workforce to Increase Vaccine Access
HRSA expects 121 awards with total funding of $121 million to expand the public health workforce at the local level in response to COVID-19. This includes mobilizing community health workers, patient navigators, and social support specialists to conduct face-to-face outreach to community members. Eligible applicants are local and/or regional community-based organizations applying as a single entity or as a network of partnering organizations. Applications are due June 9.
New Funding Available for the HRSA Telehealth Technology-Enabled Learning Program
HRSA expects to make nine awards of up to $475,000 each to connect specialists at academic medical centers with primary care providers in rural areas to improve patient care in their communities via new funding for the administration’s Telehealth Technology-Enabled Learning Program. More specifically, these learning opportunities will address unmet needs for their target population, which could include populations who have historically suffered from poorer health outcomes. Applications from public, private, and nonprofit entities are due on June 25.
FDA Approves Storage of Pfizer Vaccine for Up to One Month
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) updated its guidance for healthcare providers administering the vaccine and allows for undiluted, thawed Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine vials to be stored in refrigeration for up to one month. The previous time span was up to five days.