Policy Guidance and Updates

Get resources and information about COVID-19. Learn more.

As information in healthcare continues to evolve, Well-Ahead works to provide you with the most accurate and up-to-date changes in policy guidance, healthcare, notices and deadlines. Check these resources regularly as they are updated frequently as new information is made available.

Quick Links

  • To ensure you are staying alert on the status of COVID-19 in Louisiana, please see the Louisiana Department of Health’s COVID-19 website
  • If your patients have questions about COVID-19, please direct them to contact the Louisiana 211 Network by dialing 211. Or, they can text the keyword LACOVID to 898-211 for the most current information about the outbreak as it becomes available. They can also get answers on the Louisiana 211 website.
  • For the latest information about COVID-19, including signs and symptoms, how to prepare and resources for the community, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website.
  • To learn what the U.S. government is doing in response to COVID-19, please visit their website
  • For updates from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), please visit their website.
    • For FAQs from CMS, please click here.
    • For the Telehealth Services Guide from CMS, please click here.
  • To share vaccine information with your patients and community, use the resources from the “We Can Do This Campaign” from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Rural COVID-19 Support Webinar

Review four COVID-19 support programs currently available to rural providers:

  • American Rescue Plan (ARP) COVID-19 Testing and Mitigation
  • Rural Health Clinic COVID-19 Testing and Mitigation (RHCCTM) Program
  • Rural Health Clinic COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution (RHCVD) Program
  • Rural Health Clinic Vaccine Confidence (RHCVC) Program
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Guidance and Updates

Rural Health Clinic COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution (RHCVD) Program Resource Distribution

Updated: June 10, 2021

The Rural Health Clinic Vaccine Distribution (RHCVD) Program, through a partnership between HRSA and the CDC, distributes COVID-19 vaccines directly to RHCs to increase the availability of COVID-19 vaccines in rural communities. This program is currently ongoing with no deadline to apply.

Process to receive vaccines

  1. Complete the Rural Health Clinic COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Program Readiness Assessment
    1. Will be required to attest to/provide information about ability to meet storage requirements, current vaccine data reporting, staffing and processes, and contact information
    2. MUST KNOW YOUR VTrcKS PIN
    3. If you don’t know your VTrcKS PIN, contact State Immunization Manager
      1. Stacy Hall, 504-568-2600, stacy.hall@la.govdhh.louisiana.gov
  2. After completing the Readiness Assessment, sign and return conditions of participation document to RHCVaxDistribution@hrsa.gov
  3. Set up Vaccine Provider Order Portal (VPoP) account
    1. Will receive email from VPoP with instructions within about 1 week after submitting Conditions of Participation Agreement and the Readiness Assessment
  4. Create a vaccine order in VPoP
    1. HRSA places shipment orders on Thursdays to be delivered to clinics the following week (Monday/Tuesday)
    2. Minimum dosage orders
      1. Pfizer: 450 (decreased from 1,170)
      2. Moderna: 100
      3. Johnson & Johnson: 100
  5. Track your HRSA allocated inventory daily by logging stock on hand through VPoP
    1. Only vaccines supplied through HRSA’s federally allocated vaccine program should be managed in VPoP
  6. Follow state priority guidelines in administering the vaccines. You will be required to store, handle and administer vaccines according to stated requirements, and meet necessary reporting requirements.

CDC has advised that concerns about wasting unused doses in a small-volume environment is secondary to the imperative to get “shots in the arms.”

Eligible facilities include Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) that are active, certified by CMS, have CMS Certification Numbers (CCNs), and are listed in the CMS Survey and Certification’s Quality, Certification and Oversight Reports (QCOR); and organizations that own and operate RHCs meeting the qualifications above. Verify your eligibility through Quality Certification and Oversight Reports (QCOR).

 

Additional resources:

Rural Health Clinic COVID-19 Testing and Mitigation Program (RHCCTM) Funding Distribution

Updated: June 10, 2021

The Rural Health Clinic COVID-19 Testing and Mitigation (RHCCTM) Program distributes to each eligible CMS-certified RHC a “flat” one-time payment of up to $100,000 designed to increase testing and expand mitigation based on community need.

Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) that met the requirements for the RHC COVID-19 Testing Program should have received a one-time allocation of up to $100,000 per clinic site automatically deposited in the bank account of the corresponding Tax Identification Number (TIN) organization around June 10, 2021 (some payments, including those issued via paper check, may have a longer processing time) with the payment description COVID*ARPAct*RHCCTMPmt*HHS.GOV.

RHCs do not have to apply for payments for this program. However,  RHCs that received the RHC COVID-19 Testing and Mitigation funds and are not current with reporting of testing data on rhccovidreporting.com will not have received automatic payments and may have the opportunity to catch up for future program consideration, dependent on the availability of funds.

RHCs can utilize this funding for a variety of COVID-19 testing and mitigation activities.  See more information on allowable expenses.

RHCs receiving COVID-19 Testing and Mitigation funds are required to submit monthly reports by the last day of each month during the duration of this initiative (January 1, 2021-December 31, 2022) is to be entered in the reporting portal, rhccovidreporting.com.  RHCs receiving funds in June 2021 will begin reporting July 31, 2021.  Information to be submitted for reporting include the number of tests conducted, the number of positive tests, and data related to COVID-19 mitigation activities.

If you have additional RHC COVID-19 Testing Program data reporting questions, please contact the National Association of Rural Health Clinics (NARHC) or the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH)

For additional questions: RHCCOVID-19Testing@hrsa.gov.

Technical assistance webinars:

NARHC COVID-19 Testing and Mitigation Webinar

Increase your confidence and ensure this funding is used to expand your testing and mitigation efforts within your clinics and communities.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Please contact RHCcovidreporting@narhc.org for additional information.

American Rescue Plan (ARP) COVID-19 Testing and Mitigation Program Funding Opportunity

Updated: June 21, 2021

The American Rescue Plan (ARP) COVID-19 Testing and Mitigation Program provides funding for Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) and rural hospitals with 50 beds or fewer hospitals to increase COVID-19 testing efforts, expand access to testing in rural communities, and expand the range of mitigation activities to meet community need.

This program is managed and funding will be administered through the state Small Hospital Improvement Program (SHIP).  Applications to participate in this program closed June 6, 2021. Notice of Award is expected July 1, 2021.
Qualifying hospitals who completed an application to participate in the program will be contacted by and enter into agreements with the Louisiana SHIP program to receive funding for allowed expenditures. Allowed expenditures for this program are COVID-19 Testing and COVID-19 Mitigation activities. Some examples of allowed expenditures include:

COVID-19 Testing

  • Purchase and administration of COVID-19 tests
  • Development and implementation of strategies to address patient concerns regarding testing
  • Ensure access to COVID-19 testing by addressing long-standing systemic health and social inequities that put some rural residents at increased risk for COVID-19 or other severe illness
  • Install temporary structures, leasing of properties, retrofitting facilities
  • Education, rehabilitation, prevention, treatment, and support services for symptoms occurring after recovery from acute COVID-19 infection
  • Planning for implementation of a COVID-19 testing program, hiring staff, procuring supplies to provide testing, training providers and staff on COVID-19 testing procedures, and reporting data to HHS on COVID-19 testing activities

 

COVID-19 Mitigation

  • Promote behaviors that prevent spread of infectious diseases
  • Ensure Ventilation Systems operate properly
  • Educate the community, including education on vaccines
  • Maintain health operations for staff, including building measures to cope with employee stress and burnout
  • Conduct contact tracing
  • Use digital technologies to strengthen the hospital’s core capacity to support the public-health response to COVID-19
    Support and referrals to testing, clinical services, and other essential support services

For additional information or questions, please contact Kandi Smith, Rural Hospital Sustainability Manager at Kandi.Smith@la.gov.

National Association of Rural Health Clinics Mid-Build RHC Survey Survey

Updated: June 10, 2021

The National Association of Rural Health Clinics (NARHC) is asking RHCs that were mid-build as of December 31, 2020 to complete this survey. This information will assist NARHC in their work with Congress on legislation that would allow mid-build or mid-construction RHCs to qualify for grandfathering status for the purposes of RHC Medicare upper payment limits. 

Complete the survey if you are associated with an RHC that meets the following qualifications: 

  • Had a binding written agreement with an outside unrelated party for the construction or establishment of a Provider-Based Rural Health Clinic by December 31, 2020; and
  • Did not have an 855a or PECOS application submitted to CMS by December 31, 2020

Vulnerable Rural Hospital Assistance Program Funding Opportunity

Deadline to Apply: Saturday, July 31

Updated: June 10, 2021

Applications are open to all Louisiana Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) for the 2021-2022 cohort of the Vulnerable Rural Hospital Assistance Program (VRHAP). The Center for Optimizing Rural Health (CORH) works with up to 30 hospitals per year through the year-long VRHAP program. Selected hospitals receive free technical assistance—guidance, resources and recommendations—from a team of rural hospital experts, interactive sessions with peer hospitals and learning opportunities tailored to topics that can benefit their hospital.

Apply here: optimizingruralhealth.org/portal-application

For more information, watch the presentation recording An Overview of the Year 4 Application Process for the Rural Hospitals Assistance Program from the Center for Optimizing Rural Health (CORH). Questions can be sent to CORH@tamu.edu or call 855-234-0712. 

Rural Health Clinic Vaccine Confidence Program (COVID-19) Funding Opportunity

Deadline to apply closed Thursday, June 24 at 10:59 p.m. CST.

Updated: July 2, 2021

The Rural Health Clinic Vaccine Confidence (RHCVC) Program is a Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) initiative to improve vaccine confidence and counter vaccine hesitancy in rural communities where COVID-19 vaccine uptake lags in comparison to more populated areas.

This RHCVC Program will support outreach in rural communities to improve vaccine confidence and counter vaccine hesitancy in rural areas where vaccine uptake lags in comparison to more populated areas. Program will also address health equity gaps by offering support and resources to medically underserved areas.

The program will also address health equity gaps by offering support and resources to medically underserved rural communities.

RHCs meeting the following criteria are eligible to apply for up to $50,000 in grant funds (no match is required):

  • Medicare-certified Rural Health Clinics and organizations that own and operate Medicare-certified Rural Health Clinics. 
  • All RHCs must have active CMS Certification Numbers (CCNs) and be listed in the CMS Survey and Certification’s Quality, Certification and Oversight Reports (QCOR).
  • To verify your eligibility, visit the CMS Quality, Certification and Oversight Reports (QCOR) website. On the site, you can verify that your provider type is listed as an RHC.
  • HRSA will fund all eligible RHCs and organizations that own and operate eligible RHCs that apply and have a complete and acceptable RHCVC Program application.
  • The RHCVC program DOES NOT have any rural area location requirements.

Funding:

HRSA will award grants to all eligible RHCs that submit an acceptable application. Final award amounts will depend on the number of acceptable applicants, but it is estimated that there will be 2,000 awards for $50,000 per RHC site.

Funding may be used for a broad range of efforts to improve healthcare in rural areas and reinforce basic messages about prevention and treatment of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.

Activities may include, but are not limited to:

  • Vaccine promotion
  • Information dissemination to rural residents about how and where to get vaccinated
  • Coordinating with existing vaccination sites and public health partners to identify isolated and/or vaccine hesitate populations
  • Increasing rural community and individual patient literacy on the benefits of broad vaccination and the safety of vaccines

Use the National Institute of Health COVID-19 Vaccination Communication Guide for ideas on effective health communication tactics to educate about the vaccine.

Technical assistance webinars:

NOSORH RHC Vaccine Confidence Grants Webinar

Monday, June 14, 2021

Grants.gov Applicant Overview Webinar Technical Assistance

Friday, June 4, 2021

Please contact support@grants.gov or 1-800-518-4726 for additional Grants.gov questions.

Rural Health Clinic Vaccine Confidence Program Webinar (HRSA)
How to Respond to the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) 
Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Please contact RHCVaxConfidence@hrsa.gov for additional information.

Additional resources:

Technical assistance may also be obtained regarding the grant and its application process through National Office of State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH) by emailing rhcvaxconfidenceinfo@nosorh.org.

For grants management or budget questions, contact Nancy Gaines at (301) 443-5382 or RHCVaxConfidence@hrsa.gov.

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