Virginia Rural Health Association - Weekly Update
VRHA Weekly Update
In this Issue  December 7, 2015

VRHA News Virginia News National News Mark your calendar
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VRHA News

Expansion Bargin

By Jenna Portnoy - Washington Post

Virginia’s hospitals reversed their position on a controversial bed tax, potentially giving Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) a path to the top priority of his administration: Medicaid expansion.

Members of the [VRHA member] Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association have traditionally resisted efforts to pay additional fees, but a tax on beds — also known as a provider assessment — would draw down a federal match. Together, the money could be used to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and without state funding.

Read the full article.

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Members in the News

VRHA Member Bath Community Hospital is pleased to announce it has been named a 2015 Guardian of Excellence Award® winner by Press Ganey Associates, Inc. The Guardian of Excellence Award recognizes top-performing health care organizations that have consistently achieved the 95th percentile or above of performance in Patient Experience in the Emergency Room.

Bath Community Hospital’s CEO Kathy Landreth said, “We are extremely proud of our staff that has made this accomplishment possible.  The outstanding patient experience we are delivering in our emergency room is just one of the many ways we are working to exceed the standards of care and improve the health of our community.”

Read the full press release.
 

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More Members in the News

By Sandy Hausman - WVTF

Virginia was the first state in the nation to require that kids entering the sixth grade be vaccinated against human papilloma -- a virus that causes cervical, oral, throat and other cancers.  Parents can opt out of that requirement, and  many of them do.  Virginia ranks 44th in the nation when it comes to HPV vaccination.   A team of nurses at the University of Virginia is looking at that problem and making recommendations.

In Virginia,  only 28  percent of teenaged girls have gotten all three shots, and  just 12 percent of boys were vaccinated.  Some parents think it’s unnecessary, since HPV is sexually transmitted, but Assistant Nursing Professors [VRHA member] Emma Mitchell and Jessica Keim-Malpass say it’s  important to do this early. 

“We have the best chance of preventing adverse health effects if we do get them before they become sexually active," Mitchell explains. "It only takes one exposure.  Someone who isn’t sexually active but will be someday is still going to be at risk.”

Read the full article.

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Virginia News

Preventing Opioid Overdose

From the Office of Congressman Tim Kaine

U.S. Senator Tim Kaine introduced legislation to help prevent opioid overdose deaths by encouraging physicians to co-prescribe the life-saving drug naloxone alongside opioid prescriptions and by making naloxone more widely available in federal health settings. The Co-prescribing Saves Lives Act will enable more health professionals to get naloxone – a safe and effective antidote to opioid overdoses - into the homes of people who are at-risk of overdose.

“In every corner of Virginia, the drug abuse epidemic is hurting families, challenging local law enforcement and leaving businesses without a capable workforce,” said Kaine. “A particularly heartbreaking aspect of this crisis is that many of the deaths from opioid and heroin overdoses could have been prevented. My bill would increase access to medication that can save someone’s life during an overdose and establish clear prescribing guidelines that will help get vital information about opioids to doctors and patients.”

The Co-prescribing Saves Lives Act would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Secretary of Defense, and Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish physician education and co-prescribing guidelines for federal health settings, including VA hospitals, DOD hospitals, Indian health service facilities and Federally-Qualified Health Centers. Additionally, the bill would authorize a program to grant state Departments of Health funding that would help them establish co-prescribing guidelines, purchase naloxone, and fund training for health professionals and patients.

Read the full press release.

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Medicaid Audit

By Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission

The General Assembly directed JLARC to review the eligibility determination process for Medicaid benefits in Virginia. Medicaid eligibility determination in Virginia is undergoing significant changes, including new policies for most Medicaid applicants and a new information system used for all appli­cants. In the midst of these changes, eligibility determina­tions need to remain accurate and timely to ensure that only eligible applicants receive benefits. 

Click here to read an overview of the findings and a complete list of recommendations.

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Merging Costs

By Luanne Rife - Roanoke Times

A merger of far southwest Virginia’s predominant health care systems would create a monopoly that would price patients out of affordable care, according to economists hired by the nation’s insurers. America’s Health Insurance Plans on Friday released a report that says a merger by Wellmont Health System and Mountain States Health Alliance would give the combined company more than a 77 percent share of the market covering far southwest Virginia and east Tennessee and raise prices by at least 20 percent.

Wellmont and Mountain States plan to combine their systems, which together serve about two dozen mountainous counties in the two states. Proponents think the merger would better position the rural hospitals to withstand a changing marketplace, and protect communities from losing their hospitals as happened in Lee County in 2013 when Wellmont, without warning, closed the hospital. Opponents believe that the merger would decrease access by making health care unaffordable, and that it would not inoculate against hospital closures.

Read the full article.

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National News

The Effects of Closing

By Jennifer Bacani McKenney, MD - Rural Messenger

Four weeks after the closing of Mercy Hospital in Independence, Kansas, the effects are being felt beyond the healthcare of a single town. The loss of Mercy Hospital is a devastating blow to the nearly 10,000 people of Independence, local businesses, and surrounding small hospitals, such as my own.

Not only has Independence lost an entire hospital, but they have lost family physicians, pediatricians, obstetricians, surgeons, as well as their nursing teams.  There are now urgent care facilities that have been set up in Independence that will attempt to fill this void but will not replace the primary care services this community once had.

Additionally, businesses in Independence will likely suffer from the closure of the local hospital. Businesses may have to consider relocating because they won’t have the necessary healthcare for their employees in Independence.

Read the full editorial.

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The Need for 340B

By Alan Morgan - Morning Consult

Many rural hospitals are struggling to keep their doors open in the face of rising costs. Fifty-eight have closed since 2010 and many more may follow if the pharmaceutical industry gets its way and dismantles a little-known federal drug discount program called 340B.

Congress created the 340B drug discount program more than 20 years ago with bipartisan support to help hospitals serving high numbers of needy people. In 2010, Congress expanded the program to rural hospitals to help them treat uninsured, underinsured and other patients who have difficulty getting access to care. Under the program, eligible hospitals receive pharmaceuticals at discounted prices from drug companies. These savings are passed on directly to patients in the form of no-cost/low-cost medicines. Healthcare providers also use the savings to fund care for heart disease, diabetes and cancer as well as other services such as obstetric care.

The drug industry is working hard in Washington to derail the program by limiting hospital and patient eligibility. And this from an industry that has pushed drug prices to astronomical levels while making record profits. A key government agency is currently mulling proposed changes that would severely limit how rural hospitals can access 340B savings. Particularly hard hit would be hospitals and clinics that provide oncology infusion in small towns across America. Oncology medications are not only expensive to purchase but difficult and costly to handle. The program currently helps these facilities, but many could close if the proposed changes are made, leaving patients to drive hundreds of miles for treatment.

Read the full editorial and view a new animated video and infographic on the 340B program from the American Hospital Association.
 

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Difficult Years for Rural

By Tim Marema - Daily Yonder

It’s no surprise that poverty increased for rural children during the recession of 2007-09. But even after the Great Recession ended and many groups began to see economic improvement, the percentage of rural kids living in poverty continued to rise.

That’s one of the grimmer facts in the new Rural America at a Glance 2015 edition from the Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. The annual report, a standard reference for groups working on rural issues around the country, provides just what the title promises: a quick look at key economic, demographic, and social data for the most recent year.

Read the full article.

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Introducing the Rural Health Information Hub

By Kristine Sande - Rural Health Information Hub

On December 1st, the Rural Assistance Center became the Rural Health Information Hub. We will still be your guide to information, resources, and opportunities that can help you improve rural healthcare services and population health. The services you rely on today from the Rural Assistance Center, including the Rural Monitor, will still be available from the Rural Health Information Hub.

The new name better reflects the work we do and the services we offer. We believe that it will help those who could benefit from our services to more easily find us, by giving better clues about what we do to potential users and giving good signals to Google and other search engines.

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Mark Your Calendar

For more information about these and other events, visit the VRHA Calendar

December 8:  Content Marketing 101: Understanding Marketing’s Biggest Buzz Word - webinar
December 9: Reduce Costs and Improve Quality of Care with a Healing Environment - webinar
December 14: Federal Monitoring and Oversight Surveys in the Physical Environment - webinar
December 15: Rural Solutions to Online Education: 
December 16: Improve Care for Chronic Patients - and Leverage CPT 99490 - webinar
February 2-4: Rural Health Policy Institute - Washington, DC
April 10-12: Mid Atlantic Telehealth Resource Center Annual Summit - Cambridge, MD

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Resources

CMS Medicare Learning Network e-news

ICD-10 Transition Moves Forward
Now that ICD-10 has been implemented, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has been carefully monitoring the ICD-10 transition and is pleased to announce that claims have been processing normally. You can find information on the first month of Medicare Fee-For-Service (FFS) claims processing in this CMS Fact Sheet.

Strategic Action Plan to Address COPD in Virginia
The Strategic Action Plan to Address COPD in Virginia will be used as a roadmap to help address the COPD burden on Virginia and to maximize local, state, and national resources to help raise awareness and affect change for the over 422,000 Virginians who are struggling with COPD.

Transportation and Health Tool
See how your community stacks up compared to others in addressing key transportation and health issues. The Transportation and Health Tool was developed by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to provide easy access to data that practitioners can use to examine the health impacts of transportation systems.


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Funding Opportunities

For funding opportunities without a specific deadline, please visit the VRHA Resources page

Virginia Health Safety Net Grants
The Virginia Health Care Foundation promotes public-private partnerships that increase access to primary health care services for medically underserved and uninsured Virginians. The Foundation’s Health Safety Net Grants support organizations that work to increase access to primary care for uninsured Virginians and those who live in areas with limited access to care. Funding focuses on projects that address one or more of these priorities: developing or expanding patient capacity, establishing a broader scope of services, creating local systems of care, and strengthening the infrastructure of health care providers. Nonprofit organizations and public agencies, including free clinics, community health centers, and other similar organizations are eligible to apply. The first concept paper deadline for 2016 is January 15th.

Community Foundation of the New River Valley
Responsive Grant Program is tailored to make a positive impact in the community by responding to ongoing or emergent community needs as recognized by the area non-profits serving those needs directly. Any registered 501c(3) organization or unit of government operating in the NRV in one of our nine areas of interest is eligible to apply for responsive grants. 

Pearson Early Career Grant
Deadline: December 31, 2015
$12,000 to support early career psychologists to work in an area of critical social need. 

2016 Academic Units for Primary Care Training and Enhancement
HRSA’s Academic Units for Primary Care Training and Enhancement program will award up to 6 cooperative agreements totaling $4.5 million annually for five years (fiscal years 2016-2021). The maximum award to recipients will be up to $750,000 per year.
The deadline to apply for this opportunity is January 22, 2016.

 

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