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Pennsylvania Highlighted for Rural Health Care Innovation

April 10, 2019

The transformative changes hospitals and health systems face are front and center at this year’s American Hospital Association (AHA) Annual Meeting. During an executive session centered on rural issues, Pennsylvania’s hospitals were highlighted for their innovative work through the Rural Health Model.

Pennsylvania’s Rural Health Model pilot program is a multi-payor global budget initiative in which a pilot group of five hospitals are provided a fixed amount of funding for a fixed period of time rather than fee-for-service rates that vary based upon individual services or cases.

Rural hospitals do not have the same large patient volumes that urban and suburban hospitals may have; as a result, they face unique challenges in bridging the funding gap during times of lower patient volumes. The Rural Health Model creates predictable and stable funding year-round, helping hospital staff focus on other priorities, such as investing in community health programs and technology improvements.

Janice Walters, chief operating officer for the Rural Health Redesign Office of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, told AHA attendees that the key objective of the program is to keep the commonwealth’s rural hospitals open, so that they can ensure access to quality care and remain financially viable.  

Walters said the pilot program creates a predictable funding stream that helps hospitals maintain crucial health care services and improve the overall health of patients and communities. With more than half of Pennsylvania rural hospitals operating in the red, it is critical that health care leaders rethink how care is paid for in rural Pennsylvania.

Other speakers during the rural executive session included Dr. George Pink, Humana distinguished professor, Gilling’s School of Global Public Health; Tom Morris, associate administrator for rural health policy in the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration; and Erin Dempsey, deputy director, health policy, U.S. Senate Finance Committee.

HAP supports state Senate and House legislation to establish the Pennsylvania Rural Health Redesign Center Authority and the Pennsylvania Rural Health Redesign Center fund. Senate Bill 314 was introduced by Senator Lisa Baker (R–Luzerne) and House Bill 248 was introduced by Representative Tina Pickett (R–Kingston).

For additional information about the Rural Health Model contact Kate Slatt, senior director, innovative payment and care delivery. For questions about the legislation, contact Stephanie Watkins, vice president, state legislative advocacy, or Timothy Ohrum, vice president, grassroots advocacy.

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