Rural hospitals are critical to the health, safety and economic viability of residents and communities throughout much of Pennsylvania, but many are struggling to keep the doors open. With more than 30 rural hospitals currently at risk of closure, Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chair Sen. Lisa Baker (R-20) is joining with Rep. Tina Pickett (R-110th) and the state Department of Health (DOH) to offer innovative ways to continue providing quality health care.
“In recent years, we have heard a great deal about the challenges facing many of our rural hospitals,” Baker said. “The DOH has developed a substantial initiative to address critical problems and change the operating climate from one of decline to opportunity. Today I introduced Senate Bill 1237, to establish the Rural Health Redesign Center to oversee the transformation.”
Intended to help rural hospitals by developing a more predictable payment plan, the program will create a fixed budget to standardize reimbursements while also improving their ability to develop and carry out expanded, state-of-the-art community health services, and providing the capacity for them to pursue programs addressing key needs, such as behavioral health and substance abuse, and cooperative EMS.
The effort will be initially funded by a $25 million grant from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation. As a public-private partnership operating independently from the commonwealth, the RHRC will also have the capacity to raise funds from other sources, such as foundations. The DOH will provide various opportunities for rural hospitals and community partners to improve local health status and ensure they receive the tailored, consistent support they need to be successful.
“By putting a tourniquet on the financial bleeding, we can enable our rural hospitals to invest more in community health,” Baker added. “With not a lot of time left in this legislative session, I will move the bill quickly so there is a chance it can be sent to the governor and become law this year.”