Pennsylvania launches pilot program to help rural hospitals

Local

Many of Pennsylvania’s rural hospitals are in danger of shutting down, but state officials hope a new way of doing business will help to keep the doors open.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for the state of Pennsylvania,” said Loran Stone, CEO of Endless Mountain Hospital in Montrose, one of five Pennsylvania hospitals participating in the new Pennsylvania Rural Health Model pilot program.

“It will help by providing stability of access to health care services in the short term and long term allow us to explore opportunities in delivering public and population health that we have not done in the past,” Stone said.

Officials say the program is the first in the country aimed at ensuring the financial stability of hospitals in rural areas. Instead of hospitals getting paid when a patient is treated, the hospital instead receives what is called a monthly global budget payment.

“A predictable, reliable stream of income to provide population health medical services to the community,” Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said.

It’s an important change for rural hospitals seeing fewer patients. Nearly half are operating in the red and in serious risk of closing.

“This model will preserve access to health care in our communities while at the same time saving jobs,” Levine said.

Rural hospitals are often the economic driver in their communities. Making sure they stay open is key to the state’s overall economy.

Levine hopes to see up to 30 hospitals participating in the program by 2021. 

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