News Release: Innovative Pilot Aims to Boost Rural Community Health
March 05, 2019
Members of the hospital community joined Wolf Administration leaders today to announce a new pilot program designed to improve rural community health and provide financial stability for rural hospitals.
The Rural Health Model is a global budget payment model in which hospitals are provided a fixed amount of funding for a fixed period of time to improve the health of Pennsylvania’s rural communities, rather than a model that reimburses hospitals for individual services or cases. The program is a partnership between Pennsylvania’s rural hospital community, the state Department of Health, and the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation.
The pilot formally began January 1, 2019, with five rural hospitals participating in the first year of the program. The first-year pilot hospital participants are:
- Barnes-Kasson Hospital
- Endless Mountains Health Systems
- Geisinger Jersey Shore Hospital
- UPMC Kane
- Wayne Memorial Hospital
HAP president and CEO Andy Carter attended the press conference announcing the program and expressed optimism about the pilot’s first year.
“The Rural Health Model pilot demonstrates the kind of collaborative innovation that we can achieve when the hospital community and government partners work together to problem solve and plan for the future,” Carter said during the announcement.
“This pilot will help participants prioritize the health and wellbeing of the patients they serve, achieve greater financial stability, and remain an important part of the community for years to come.”
The commonwealth’s rural hospitals care for approximately 3.4 million individuals—approximately one in four Pennsylvanians—and programs like the Rural Health Model are crucial to preserving their access to high-quality health care, regardless of where they live.
Rural hospitals tend to treat older patients with more medically complex conditions; the communities they serves face social, geographic, and economic barriers that contribute to poorer health outcomes; and the patient base relies more on government insurers, which reimburse hospitals at rates below the cost of care.
Further, despite contributing more than $6 billion to the state’s economy and supporting more than 43,760 jobs, the state’s rural hospitals face unique challenges, and more than half reported negative total operating margins during fiscal year 2016.
Carter added that, thanks to programs like the Rural Health Model pilot, hospitals are emphasizing improving the overall health and wellbeing of their patients and families through preventive care and chronic condition management, which can help patients get and stay healthy and stay out of the hospital all together. Participating hospitals are customizing their programs to address community-specific needs, including behavioral health care, solutions to the opioid crisis, geriatric services, and diabetes management.
In addition to the Rural Health Model, HAP continues to support efforts to help the hospital community provide high-quality care to all Pennsylvanians, regardless of where they live. Through enhanced community health services, strategic partnerships, and implementation of telemedicine services (alongside strengthened broadband access), Pennsylvania’s rural hospitals are adapting to meet the health care needs of the present, while planning for the future.