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Pickett, House Insurance Committee Learn More about Rural Health Care Partnership
Rep. Tina Pickett (R-Bradford/Sullivan/Susquehanna) chaired an informational meeting of the House Insurance Committee Monday in Harrisburg on legislation to strengthen rural hospitals and access to critical health care.
HARRISBURG – To help ensure the viability of rural hospitals across the state, the House Insurance Committee held an informational meeting on Monday to learn more about an innovative state model gaining national attention, said Rep. Tina Pickett (R-Bradford/Sullivan/Susquehanna), author of the legislation and chairman of the committee.

“This public-private partnership is an opportunity for these hospitals to get on some stable financial ground,” Pickett said. “These hospitals – which provide critical access to care for thousands of rural residents -- and their employees are the economic engines of most communities, and it’s imperative to keep them operational.”

Pickett’s House Bill 2532 would establish the Rural Health Redesign Center, a public-private partnership, which would administer the PA Rural Health Program. This would help strengthen rural hospitals, keep jobs local and increase access to health care.

Currently, rural hospitals are paid in an unpredictable, fee-for-service manner that leaves many facilities suffering financially. Through the program, rural hospitals would transition to a payment model that would provide a stable and steady stream of revenue, allowing these vital health care facilities to better plan the types of health services their communities need.

About 67 hospitals in Pennsylvania are considered rural, and 32 of them are at risk of closure with operating margins below 0 percent.

According to the Department of Health, which is spearheading the program’s development, a revenue-neutral strategy would be implemented with a payment model that provides a stable and steady revenue stream, called a global budget. As part of that global budget, hospitals would receive the same amount of revenue each month, thereby allowing these facilities to better meet local health needs, make key investments in community health and invest in lower-cost, higher-quality care.

Specifically, the center would provide financial and medical practice information technical assistance to rural hospitals as they participate; offer support for hospitals to engage and work with rural community partners to improve local health status; and help rural hospitals identify solutions for critical challenges including access to broadband, tele-health services and behavioral health services, among other benefits.

The program, which would transition out of the department and into its own independent agency, would be supported by federal funds, along with grants, foundation dollars and consulting fees from other states.

Dr. Lauren Hughes, deputy secretary for Health Innovation, Pennsylvania Department of Health, told the committee that Pennsylvania is increasingly being recognized nationwide for this work and its leadership in solving the rural hospital crisis. About 20 other states have reached out to Pennsylvania already.

Dave Hoff, chief executive officer, and Jim Pettinato, director of Patient Care Services, both with Wayne Memorial Hospital, expressed their excitement about participation in the model. Their rural hospital in Honesdale, Wayne County, is a critical resource in its community but its revenue model increasingly depends on “sick care,” rather than encouraging a healthier population. They pointed out that the broad collaboration within the development of the program will lead to its success.

Committee members asked about payment and services for behavioral health and its tie to county human service agencies, and the mechanics of the payment structure within the global budget.

Other insight was offered by Janice Walters, chief operating officer, Pennsylvania Rural Health Model, Pennsylvania Department of Health; and Brendan Harris, vice president of Government Programs for Central and Northeastern PA, UPMC Health Plan.

Representative Tina Pickett
110th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Jennifer Keaton
(717) 705-2094 /
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