Current Report Articles
Federal Focus

Federal Focus (Aug. 21, 2020) – HRSA Announces New Funding Opportunity For Rural Network Planning
The Health Resources and Services Administration's Federal Office of Rural Health Policy released a Notice of Funding Opportunity for the Rural Health Network Development Planning Program. HRSA intends to award 20 one-year grants of as much as $100,000 to rural communities to promote the development of integrated health care networks to achieve efficiencies; expand access to, coordinate and improve the quality of basic health care services; and strengthen the rural health care system as a whole.

The eligibility criteria for this program has been reauthorized to include all domestic public and private, nonprofit, and for-profit entities with demonstrated experience serving, or the capacity to serve, rural underserved populations. Urban-based organizations applying as the lead applicant should ensure there is a high degree of rural control in the project. The applicant organization must represent a network that includes at least three or more health care provider organizations, and at least 66 percent (or two-thirds) of network members must be located in a HRSA-designated rural area. The applications closing date is Nov. 16.

FDA Releases Drug Safety Communication
A recent Drug Safety Communication from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sets forth new requirements when labeling opioid pain medicine. As a routine part of prescribing these medicines, health care professionals should discuss the availability of the overdose reversal drug naloxone with patients and caregivers, both when beginning and renewing treatment.

The labeling changes recommend health care professionals consider prescribing naloxone to patients who are prescribed opioid pain medicines and those at increased risk of opioid overdose, including those who are also taking benzodiazepines or other medicines that depress the central nervous system; those who have a history of opioid use disorder; and those who have experienced a prior opioid overdose. A naloxone prescription also should be considered for patients prescribed opioids who have household members, including children, or other close contacts at risk for accidental ingestion or opioid overdose.

OIG Publishes Data Brief on Opioid Use
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General released a data brief, "Opioid Use in Medicare Part D Continued to Decline in 2019, but Vigilance is Needed as COVID-19 Raises New Concerns." Opioid use in Medicare Part D has steadily decreased throughout the past several years, with about one in four Part D beneficiaries receiving an opioid in 2019. At the same time, the use of drugs for medication-assisted treatment has steadily increased. Concerns raised in the data brief are even more urgent in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic. Early reports for 2020 indicate that overdose deaths are rising in many areas of the country. In addition, a number of rules related to telehealth and the prescribing of opioids have been relaxed to ensure greater access to legitimate prescribing during the pandemic. These changes may unintentionally increase opioid use and prescribing in 2020.

MLN Connects Provider eNews Available
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issues updates to MLN Connects Provider eNews. eNews includes information about national provider calls, meetings, events, announcements and other MLN educational product updates. The latest issue provides updates and summaries of the following:

Congress Recesses Until September
The U.S. Senate has begun its August recess period. It is scheduled to last through Tuesday, Sept. 8. Senators will receive at least 24 hours’ notice if they need to return to Washington, D.C., to vote on a COVID-19 relief package that emerges from negotiations that now are stalled. The U.S. House of Representatives’ recess is scheduled through Monday, Sept. 14.

CMS Develops A CHART Model Fact Sheet
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services developed a fact sheet that provides an overview of the Community Health Access and Rural Transformation Model, which aims to increase financial stability for rural providers, provide operational and regulatory flexibility for rural providers, and enhance Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries' access to health care services. It highlights the two tracks available in the model while outlining the model implementation time.

RWJF Offers Healthy Eating Research Grants
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is offering grants for research to identify policy, systems and environmental strategies that have the strongest potential to reduce sugar-sweetened beverages, and increase safe drinking water access and intake among low-income and children of color who are at greatest risk for poor nutrition and obesity. The application deadline is Wednesday, Sept. 16.

CMS Announces IPFQR Program Webinar
Participants in the Inpatient Psychiatric Facility Quality Reporting Program now have access to a webinar, IPFQR Program: FY 2021 Keys to Successful Reporting. The webinar can be viewed on the Quality Reporting Center and provides inpatient psychiatric facilities with information regarding fiscal year 2021 IPFQR program requirements, keys to successful data submission and guidance to verify data accuracy.