HARRISBURG – An innovative pilot project that could prove to be a real life saver for hospitals serving smaller communities received Senate approval today, according to Sen. Lisa Baker (R-20) who has been part of this collaborative effort between state and federal agencies, and private institutions for the last several years.
Recognizing the special challenges that come with providing quality, accessible services in rural areas, the Rural Health Redesign Center seeks to aid hospitals by developing a more predictable payment plan and creating a fixed budget to stabilize reimbursements. The center would be utilized by health systems participating in the state’s innovative Global Payment Model for rural hospitals, which seeks to improve patient health in rural communities while ensuring that the hospitals serving those residents remain financially healthy.
“Most of the qualifying hospitals are running in the negative, with one in three operating with margins in the red,” Baker explained. “These facilities are indispensable in the health care network, serving 1.8 million Pennsylvanians.”
“Equally consequential, they are significant employers and economic generators as one of the top five employers in their respective communities,” she added.
Locally, Wayne Memorial Hospital in Honesdale, Endless Mountains Health System in Montrose, and Barnes-Kasson County Hospital in Susquehanna Depot will join Geisinger Jersey Shore Hospital and UPMC Kane to participate in the Global Payment Model. The hospitals will receive an adequate level of payment for a fixed period, offering time to transform care locally to better meet the health needs of the community. This includes opportunities to assess items that may traditionally fall outside of the role of the hospital, such as transportation and broadband internet access.
“If so much time and energy is not devoted to keeping the doors open, or agonizing about available funds to make payroll, the focus can shift back to progressively extending, rather than painfully constructing services and operations. It also clears the way for a greater emphasis on community intervention services such as behavioral health, substance abuse treatment, and home health care,” said Baker.
Once the center is up and running, support will be provided to offer new community health services and programs to help hospitals meet key needs such as behavioral health and substance abuse. It will initially be funded by a $25 million grant from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, and funds from private sources moving forward.
Approximately 30 of Pennsylvania’s 42 rural hospitals are currently at risk, as many are caught between the demand for high-cost services and low reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid. An additional 18 have signaled their interest in participating in program year two.
Andrew M. Seder