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Innovative Rural Health Model, Legislation Advances

September 24, 2019

Yesterday, legislation aimed at improving the financial stability of rural hospitals cleared another legislative hurdle and was voted out of the House Health Committee. Senate Bill 314, sponsored by Senator Lisa Baker (R–Luzerne), would establish the Pennsylvania Rural Health Redesign Center (RHRC), which would serve as the governing body of the new Rural Health Model, which began January 1, 2019, and was formally announced during March.

The Pennsylvania model is being watched with interest around the nation. Implementing the RHRC would place Pennsylvania as a leader and serve as a national example in rural health care delivery, including in areas of financing, community health, research, rural health transformation, and economic vitality.

Additionally, the RHRC also would:

  • Provide stable and consistent technical assistance support that may not otherwise be available for rural hospitals
  • Allow for collaboration with other participant hospitals to learn, problem solve, share best practices, and pursue joint strategies
  • Work to secure additional funding through competitive grants and possible foundation resources as a cohort member
  • Provide opportunities to partner with community agencies to pursue solutions to challenges affecting rural health care delivery, including access to broadband, telehealth services, transportation, and others

Participants in the Rural Health Model receive a fixed amount of funding for a fixed period of time—as opposed to payment based on patient volume—to improve the health and outcomes of the communities they serve.

Five Pennsylvania hospitals are participating in the Rural Health Model’s first year:

  • Barnes-Kasson Hospital
  • Endless Mountains Health Systems
  • Geisinger Jersey Shore Hospital
  • UPMC Kane
  • Wayne Memorial Hospital

Senate Bill 314 is a vital component of ensuring the Rural Health Model’s success. Programs like the Rural Health Model are innovating the way that hospitals meet the needs of their patients and plan for the future. Participants are looking at their community’s unique health needs and working to emphasize preventive care and chronic condition management, behavioral health care, address the opioid crisis, and provide specialized care for older Pennsylvanians.

A companion bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives, HB248, by Representative Tina Pickett (R-Bradford).

For more information, contact Stephanie Watkins, HAP’s vice president, state legislative advocacy, or Kate Slatt, HAP’s senior director, innovative payment and care delivery.

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