For me, rural means caring and community. As we approach National Rural Health Day, November 20, 2014, I’m reflecting on the amazing things to be thankful for this year.

This year our rural communities have shown that they are innovative and resilient in this time of change in healthcare. The facilities that make up the rural healthcare safety net are essential to the health and well-being of our rural communities. Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs), Rural Health Clinics (RHCs), Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), community safety net clinics, public health agencies, mental health centers, rural hospitals, long-term care centers, hospice and home health, and medical and dental practices to name a few are the backbone of the rural health infrastructure. CAHs, RHCs and others continue to engage in health information technology, quality improvement and patient engagement.

Colorado’s rural communities care for one another in ways that truly show the best of human nature.   Nearly 43,869 more lives are now covered in rural Colorado due to individuals enrolled in private health coverage through Connect for Health Colorado and the State’s Medicaid expansion. This number is high, but we still have the opportunity to increase the number of lives covered in rural Colorado for the upcoming year.

• Rural Coloradans have a higher rate of uninsurance (20.6%) compared to their urban counterparts (15.1%).
• Rural Coloradans experience interruptions in coverage at a rate slightly higher than urban (11.9% vs. 10.8%).
• The rural economy is largely based on self-employment and small business. Compared to the urban resident, rural employees are more likely to work in establishments with ten or fewer employees.
• Rural populations have historically faced higher premiums compared to urban populations, primarily due to lack of economies of scale and lack of competition among providers. The difference is approximately $180 per month.

Open enrollment through Connect for Health Colorado has gone live for the second enrollment period. The marketplace reports that “they have worked closely with [their] partners at Health Care Policy and Financing to provide a single eligibility system so all customers applying for financial assistance will have just one application to complete to see if they are eligible for state coverage or a tax credit to reduce the cost of private insurance.”

To help you prepare for this next period of Open Enrollment, below is a list of federal resources, both from the Office of Rural Health Policy as well as other federal agencies:

• “ORHP, ACA, and You” Office Hours – These biweekly webinars function as a forum for rural stakeholders engaged in outreach and enrollment to share challenges and best practices as well as receiving marketplace updates and information about federal resources for O&E.
• ORHP, ACA, and You Inbox for Technical Assistance – In conjunction to Office Hours, ORHP also operates an inbox to assist stakeholders in questions about the marketplace and challenges in conducting outreach and enrollment. This listserv disseminates logistical information about Office Hours as well as bi-weekly updates with Marketplace information and resources. To join this listserv, please email orhp-acaquestions@hrsa.gov with subject line “Subscribe.”
• Office of Rural Health Policy webpage: http://www.hrsa.gov/ruralhealth/
• HRSA Affordable Care Act webpage: http://www.hrsa.gov/affordablecareact
• National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Human Services Policy Brief: http://www.hrsa.gov/advisorycommittees/rural/publications/ruralimplications.pdf. ORHP will be coming out with a best practices guide to rural outreach and enrollment shortly. In the interim, however, this policy brief identifies key strategies used during last year’s Open Enrollment by rural stakeholders to conduct outreach and enrollment.
• Partnering with Community Health Centers on Outreach and Enrollment Resource: http://www.hrsa.gov/affordablecareact/healthcenterpartner.pdf
• Marketplace Information and Enrollment :https://www.healthcare.gov/
• Provider and Partner Marketplace Resources: http://marketplace.cms.gov
• Marketplace Call Center: 1-800-318-2596 (TTY users should call 1-855-889-4325). The call center is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and has translation services available for 150 languages.

Please join us on November 20th to celebrate National Rural Health Day at our Open House from 2-5:30pm.  We’re hosting mini tours, educational booths, networking, and a hot cocoa bar! For details and to RSVP visit http://bit.ly/1pZEADu.

    RSVP        Add to your calendar

If you can not join us in person, join our 30 minute virtual webcast with Dr. Mark Deutchman, Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

    Register for the Webcast    

Much is happening in healthcare. Check out my monthly CEO update for the latest in rural healthcare.

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