Governor Tom Wolf has signed a Bill into law he says supports public health. Senate Bill 314 creates a pilot program that could sustain hospitals serving rural communities.

The Bill’s sponsor, Senator Lisa Baker (R- Luzerne, Pike, Susquehanna, Wayne, Wyoming) says 30 out of the state’s 42 rural hospitals are operating in the red. She introduced this legislation aimed at improving the financial stability of these important health centers.

“They serve 1.8 million Pennsylvanians. Equally consequential, they are significant employers and economic generators, with these hospitals being among the top 5 employers in their respective communities,” says Senator Baker.

Senate Bill 314 establishes the Rural Health Redesign Center Authority and the Pennsylvania Rural Health Redesign Center Fund.  Both of these will support the state’s new Global Payment Model. This program transitions rural hospitals from fee-for-service to global budget payments. Senator Baker says this initiative will improve patient health while also ensuring financial stability for rural hospitals.

“It allows hospitals and health systems to shift their focus back to progressively extending, rather that painfully restricting services and operations,” explains Senator Baker.

The Global Payment Model will develop a more predictable payment plan for participating hospitals. It will also create a fixed budget, which will allow for more stable reimbursements. Governor Tom Wolf, who signed the Bill last week, says quote:

“Every Pennsylvanian deserves access to quality health care within a reasonable distance from home. The Rural Health Redesign Center Authority and Pennsylvania Rural Health Redesign Center Fund will help ensure the hospitals that serve rural Pennsylvanians can provide necessary services even with a lower patient volume.”

Five hospitals are participating in the program in its first year. These facilities include Wayne Memorial Hospital in Honesdale, Endless Mountains Health System in Montrose, and Barnes-Kasson County Hospital in Susquehanna, Geisinger Jersey Shore Hospital, and UPMC Kane in McKean County. Eighteen more hospitals have expressed interest in joining the program in its second year.