VRHA Weekly Update
In this Issue March 6, 2017

VRHA News Virginia News National News Mark your calendar
Funding Opportunities


Newsletter available




Members in the News

By Carol Vaugh - DelMarVa

"I'm in awe every time I go into that building."

That was Accomack County Board of Supervisors Chairman Robert Crockett's assessment of the new [VRHA member] Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital.

The $90 million campus in an addition to the two-story hospital that includes Shore Cancer Center and a medical office building.

Read the full article.

Back to the top

More Members in the News

By Gabe Cavallaro - News Leader

[VRHA member] Augusta Health will soon be opening a specialty clinic and diagnostic facility in Lexington.  The new facility will boast more than 6100 square feet of office space, three physician offices, seven exam rooms, a procedure room, laboratory draw area, and an imaging area that includes x-ray and ultrasound for diagnostics.

Read the full article.

Back to the top

Even More Members in the News

From the Augusta Free Press

Hospitals in Virginia continue to serve as indispensable community pillars that provide public access to essential health services and are economic cornerstones. Newly available data show Virginia hospitals in 2015 employed 125,674 people in good-paying jobs, with payroll and benefits totaling $8.5 billion. Hospitals in the Commonwealth also spent nearly $18.7 billion in our communities in 2015, representing economic investments with many local businesses. And our hospitals generated $39.9 billion in state economic output during 2015, according to a January 2017 report from the American Hospital Association.

“These latest figures reaffirm what we have long known – Virginia’s community hospitals and health systems are tremendously valuable to our local, state, and national economies,” said [VRHA member] Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association President and CEO Sean T. Connaughton. “At a time when our state and federal leaders are focused on job growth and creation, our hospitals continue to serve as key employment hubs in our communities even as health care providers face challenging financial headwinds and the prospect of fundamental federal and state policy change that could cause further upheaval. Amid these conditions, Virginia’s hospitals continue to serve all comers year round at all hours of the day or night.”

Read the full article.

Back to the top

Virginia News

Merger Questions

By David McGee - Bristol Herald Courier

After pushing hard to secure state approvals for a proposed merger, two area health systems are now working to answer questions and supply additional information to health departments in Tennessee and Virginia.

Officials of Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health System met briefly with the news media, slightly more than a year after filing a cooperative agreement merger request in Virginia and seeking a Certificate of Public Advantage in Tennessee. The two longtime rivals want to join forces and form Ballad Health. Earlier this year, each state granted requests for additional time to submit additional information.

Many of the questions from each state ask the health systems to project multiple years into the future and provide more specific data about promised benefits.

Read the full article and related story from WHJL.

Back to the top

Opioid Epidemic Bills

From the Office of the Governor

Governor Terry McAuliffe signed several bills that will help fight the epidemic of opioid abuse and overdose. “Abuse of opioids continues to kill Virginians,” said Governor McAuliffe. “We recognize that addiction is a disease, not a moral failing, and our proposals for this General Assembly session focused on preventing addiction and providing treatment for those who suffer from it. While our overdose death statistics, sadly, continue to rise, each number represents a family that is suffering. We will use every tool we can get to continue this fight.”

Although final numbers are not yet available, the Virginia Department of Health projects that more than 1,000 people died from fatal opioid overdoses in 2016. If those projections hold, 2016 will have seen a 33 percent increase in the number of fatal opioid overdoses compared to 2015.

Governor McAuliffe signed the following bills:

  • SB848 (Wexton) and HB1453 (LaRock) allow community organizations to possess and dispense naloxone to those that they train to use it.
  • HB2317 (O’Bannon) allows local departments of health to administer harm reduction programs in parts of the state with very high rates of HIV and Hep C. These programs will exchange dirty syringes for clean ones, offer testing for Hep C and HIV, and connect people to addiction treatment.
  • HB1786 (Stolle) initiates a family assessment and plan of care from local social services if a child is found to have been exposed to substances in utero. This connects the mother to treatment if necessary and provides services to ensure the safety of both the mother and the child.
  • HB2165 (Pillion) mandates that all opioid prescriptions will be transmitted to pharmacies electronically by 2020 and creates a workgroup to study how to implement this change.  

Read the full press release.

No Cancer Decrease

By Lyndsey Gilpin - FiveThirtyEight

Just over a year ago, Natasha Lucas, an agent for the University of Kentucky’s Owsley County Extension Office, needed a local lung cancer survivor to speak at a popular annual cancer awareness event in Booneville, Kentucky. But she had a devil of a time finding one. It took weeks to track someone down, but as sad as that was, it wasn’t surprising. When it comes to lung cancer, Lucas said matter-of-factly, “there are just very few survivors.”
Located along the Kentucky River on the western side of the Appalachian Mountains, Owsley County had one of the highest percentage increases of cancer mortality per capita in the U.S. from 1980 to 2014, according to a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Deaths per 100,000 people went up 45.6 percent. But this small, rural county provides just a snapshot of the larger cancer epidemic in Appalachia. According to new research out of the University of Virginia, cancer incidence has declined in much of the country since 1969 — but not in rural Appalachia. In rural Appalachian Kentucky, the cancer mortality rate is 36 percent higher than it is for urban, non-Appalachian people in the rest of the country; in rural Appalachian Virginia it is 15 percent higher; in those areas of West Virginia, 19 percent. People in much of rural Appalachia are more likely to die within three to five years of their diagnoses than those in both urban Appalachian areas and urban areas across the U.S.

Read the full article.

Back to the top

National News

Hospital Bill

From the Augusta Free Press

U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) introduced bipartisan legislation to ensure hospitals are fairly reimbursed for their services by the federal government and are able to remain open and functioning, especially in Virginia’s underserved and economically struggling regions. 

The budget-neutral Fair Medicare Hospital Payments Act of 2017 (S.397) would correct a flawed formula that results in disproportionately low Medicare reimbursement payments to hospitals in rural and low-wage areas.

The Fair Medicare Hospital Payments Act of 2017 would establish a national minimum “area wage index” of 0.874. The area wage index is based on the relative hospital wage level in the hospital’s geographic area compared to the national average. Over the past three decades, legislative and regulatory changes have combined with broader economic trends to create an uneven playing field that has resulted in hospitals losing out on millions of dollars in Medicare payments annually.

According to the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, there are at least 19 hospitals in Virginia that currently have an index below 0.874 and would benefit from this change. This legislation has been endorsed by the Virginia Hospital Association and the National Rural Health Association.

Read the full article and related story in the Chattanoogan.

Back to the top

Coverage Deserts

By Vann R. Newkirk II - Atlantic

The devil’s always in the details, but if the details of a new 100-page leaked draft of a House Republican plan to repeal Obamacare are too dense to parse, here’s a brief snapshot: Millions of people in rural areas where it’s already hardest to find doctors might no longer be able to afford health insurance in a few years.

The basics of that plan, which was unveiled by House Speaker Paul Ryan two weeks ago, and the rough shape of which has the support of new health secretary Tom Price and the Trump administration, are known. The plan removes the individual and employer mandates to purchase and provide insurance, respectively, and it would also repeal most of the taxes that fund Obamacare. It would roll back funding for the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion and dramatically restructure the Medicaid program’s funding. Further, the plan would replace the Affordable Care Act’s cost-sharing subsidies and premium tax credits with an age-rated tax credit, all while keeping Obamacare’s popular pre-existing conditions ban.

The result might be a national health-insurance system that does relatively well for so-called “coastal elites” with decent access to physicians and robust state public-health infrastructure, but rather badly for the denizens of Middle America that Trump and the GOP place at the center of their rhetoric. As more and more Republican congressmen in those places face hostile town halls about Obamacare and a real fear of losing coverage from constituents, this new policy outline doesn’t seem likely to alleviate those fears.

Read the full article and related stories from ForbesPublic News Service and Clinton Herald.

Back to the top

Children of Crisis

By Esther Honig - WOSU

As a child services caseworker, Jennifer Mills says on most days she will drive from one end of Ross County to the other, filing paperwork at the local courthouse and to check in on her clients. Most are parents struggling to keep their kids, and kids adjusting to living without their parents.

In the three years since Mills started this job, just two of her cases have been not-drug related. Drug cases are difficult, she says, because you want so badly for the client to get clean. In Ross County, almost 90 percent of kids placed in foster homes are there because their parents struggle with drug addiction—opiates, mostly.

Read the full article.

Back to the top

Hazardous to Your Health

By Lisa Esposito - US News & World Report

You'd think country living, with fresh air and open spaces, would be healthier than city dwelling. But key health measurers show just the opposite.  One reason: More public health attention goes to metropolitan populations.

"We've made a lot of efforts to improve care in urban areas, and we've been rewarded with a lot of success," say Dr. ernest Moy with the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Rural areas are often more challenged in terms of getting interventions in places, so they tend to lag behind."

Read the full photo essay.

Back to the top


Mark Your Calendar

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

March 13: Utilizing Virginia Medicaid's Addiction and Recovery Treatment Services -    ​ Winchester​
March 15: Utilizing Virginia Medicaid's Addiction and Recovery Treatment Services - Harrisonburg​
March 16: Oral Health Care Access for Individuals with Special Health Care Needs - Woodbridge
March 17: Utilizing Virginia Medicaid's Addiction and Recovery Treatment Services  - Roanoke
March 20: Utilizing Virginia Medicaid's Addiction and Recovery Treatment Services  - Radford
March 22: Utilizing Virginia Medicaid's Addiction and Recovery Treatment Services  - Wise
March 24: Utilizing Virginia Medicaid's Addiction and Recovery Treatment Services  - Abingdon
March 27: Utilizing Virginia Medicaid's Addiction and Recovery Treatment Services  - Martinsville
​March 29: Utilizing Virginia Medicaid's Addiction and Recovery Treatment Services  - Richmond
March 29-30: 2017 Population Health Summit - Charlottesville
March 31: Utilizing Virginia Medicaid's Addiction and Recovery Treatment Services  - Charlottesville
April 2-4: MATRC Telehealth Summit - Leesburg
May 9-12: 40th Annual Rural Health Conference - San Diego, CA
May 9-12: Rural Hospital Innovation Summit - San Diego, CA

Back to the top


State of Tobacco Control Report
The American Lung Association's 15th annual "State of Tobacco Control" report finds that much more needs to be done to prevent our nation's youth from a lifetime of tobacco addiction. The report shows that some key actions were taken at the federal and state levels to prevent and reduce tobacco use in 2016, but much more must be done to protect the public from the harms of tobacco use and secondhand smoke.

Demonstrating Critical Access Hospital Value: A Guide to Potential Partnerships
Provides a three-step framework to help Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) quantify and demonstrate their value to potential partners. Includes an editable worksheet that can be used to document and track progress as your CAH moves through each of the three steps - understanding the potential partner, identifying the CAH value proposition, and presenting the CAH value message.

CMS Issues New Guidance for Hospitals.  
Last month, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued preliminary guidance clarifying the 21st Century Cures Act provisions that impact hospital outpatient off-campus provider-based departments (PBD) with concrete plans for construction at the passing of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015. The Cures law extended the grandfather date for those facilities to qualify for payment under the outpatient prospective payment system, rather than at the lower “site-neutral” rate. On Dec. 28, CMS also issued sub- regulatory guidance on how hospitals can request from their CMS Regional Office a relocation exception for an excepted off-campus provider based department due to an extraordinary circumstance. Please see the fact sheet for more information on the finalized Hospital Outpatient Prospective Final Rule and provisions related to payments for off-campus PBDs.

CMS Unveils New Compare Websites and Data Updates.  
CMS announced two new websites providing quality data on inpatient rehabilitation facilities (IRFs) and long-term care hospitals (LTCHs): IRF Compare and LTCH Compare. The new Compare sites report performance measures from the IRF and LTCH quality reporting programs, such as the percentage of patients with new or worsened pressure ulcers and the rate of unplanned readmissions within 30 days after discharge. Of note for rural residents, the IRF Compare site includes information on inpatient rehabilitation units at both critical access hospitals and other rural hospitals. LTCH Compare also includes rural providers, though these make up only about 5% of all LTCHs. CMS has also provided data updates for the Hospice Quality, Hospital Compare, and Physician Compare websites. 

Zika Trainings for Healthcare Providers
CDC's easy-to-navigate web page. It includes trainings for obstetric healthcare providers, pediatricians, and nurses, as well as instructional videos on topics including the proper way to measure an infant’s head circumference.

Taking Care of Diabetes Means Taking Care of Your Heart 
Tip sheet for your patients to get more information on what they can do to take care of their heart from the National Diabetes Education Program.

How does MACRA affect RHC and FQHCs?
FAQ sheet from healthcare consultant BKD on the upcoming MACRA changes specific to Rural Health Clinics and Federally Qualified Health Centers.

Rural Health Workforce Maps
These new maps show county-by-county data on Health Professional Shortage Areas for Primary Care, Dental Care, and Mental Health Care. Nonmetropolitan and micropolitan shortage areas are identified with a separate color scale from metropolitan shortage areas.

Webinar Recording Available: Obstetric Care Quality and Access for Rural U.S. Women
Katy Kozhimannil, PhD, MPA, Associate Professor, University of Minnesota School of Public Health, and Director of Research at the University of Minnesota Rural Health Research Center presented findings from recent studies on the quality of obstetric care in rural hospitals, the workforce providing obstetric care in rural areas, and the predictors of non-local childbirth for rural women. The focus of this presentation was on understanding whether rural pregnant women have access to the care they need, and whether rural hospitals have the capacity to meet the needs of rural women and families.

Back to the top

Funding Opportunities

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

Reducing Health Disparities Among Minority and Underserved Children (Exploratory/Developmental - R21)
Awards funding for exploratory or developmental research that targets the reduction of health disparities among children, including rural, low-income, geographically isolated children.
Application Deadline: Jun 16, 2017 

Reducing Health Disparities Among Minority and Underserved Children
(Research Project - R01)
Awards funding for discrete research projects that target the reduction of health disparities among children, including rural, low-income, geographically isolated children.
Application Deadline: Jun 16, 2017 

Health Policy Research Scholars
RWJF program to create a large cadre of diverse doctoral students from a wide variety of research-focused disciplines—students whose research, connections, and leadership will inform and influence policy toward a Culture of Health. The Health Policy Research Scholars program will award stipends for up to 50 scholars for the 2017 cohort. Each scholar will receive an annual stipend of $30,000 for up to four years. Participants may continue in the Health Policy Research Scholars program, without the annual stipend, for a fifth year, or until they complete their doctoral program, whichever occurs first. Scholars will also be eligible for dissertation grants of up to $10,000 if the proposed dissertation is related to health policy research.
Deadline: March 29

Grants for the Benefit of Homeless Individuals (GBHI)
Grants to support the development and/or expansion of local implementation of a community infrastructure that integrates behavioral health treatment and services for substance use disorders and co-occurring mental and substance use disorders, permanent housing, and other critical services for individuals and families experiencing homelessness.
Application Deadline: Apr 25, 2017 

Monsanto Fund: America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education
America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education, an initiative of the Monsanto Fund, helps farmers positively impact their communities and support local school districts. The program gives farmers in selected counties in 41 states (including Virginia) the opportunity to nominate a rural public school district to compete for grants to promote science and math education. Once nominated by a local farmer, school district administrators are eligible to submit an application for either a grant of up to $10,000 or a grant of up to $25,000 to support a science or math educational program. The more farmers that nominate a school district, the more it demonstrates community support and strengthens the school district’s application.
Farmers must submit nominations by April 1, 2017, and the deadline for schools to apply is April 15, 2017. 

Back to the top





Click to view this email in a browser

If you no longer wish to receive these emails, please reply to this message with "Unsubscribe" in the subject line or simply click on the following link: Unsubscribe

Click here to forward this email to a friend

Virginia Rural Health Association
2265 Kraft Drive
Blacksburg, VA 24060

Read the VerticalResponse marketing policy.

Non-Profits Email Free with VerticalResponse!