Highlands Works to Ensure Viability

Highlands Hospital was one four facilities that was recently added as a participant in the Pennsylvania Rural Health Model.

Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said the model is aimed at ensuring the financial viability of hospitals in rural areas across Pennsylvania.“Rural hospitals are essential to the overall health of Pennsylvanians, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is an important initiative to ensure that everyone across the state has access to quality health care within a reasonable distance from home,” Levine said.

John Andursky, Highlands Hospital CEO, said “participation in the Pennsylvania Rural Health Model with (will) stabilize receipts from Medicare and other payers participating in the program. The program will also provide opportunities for sharing of cost savings recognized through implementation of our transformation goals established by management and approved by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation.” Andursky said Highlands is one of four hospitals participating in Cohort 3, Year 3, of the program.

Levine said the model helps ensure rural hospitals stay open, that jobs stay local and that sustainable access to health care is available to residents. The Rural Health Redesign Center Authority was established in May 2020 to lead continued development of the model, working in partnership with the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation and the Pennsylvania Department of Health. There are now 17 hospitals and six payers in the program, Levine said. “The PARHM is projected to serve more than one million Pennsylvanians in rural communities in 2021 and will have approximately $725 million in net patient revenue in the global budget model,” said Gary Zegiestowsky, RHRCA executive director. The scale Pennsylvania has achieved with this model provides a solid base to drive transformative change for rural health care,” he said. “We are excited about the opportunity to grow the model further over the next year,” he added. “I would add our thanks to the hospitals and payers that have joined us in the journey to transform rural health care across the state. This program is truly about coming together to serve rural Pennsylvania.”

In March 2019, the department announced the first five hospitals participating in the model and in December 2019, announced eight more. Many rural hospitals in Pennsylvania are operating with negative margins and are at risk of closure. The number of hospitals eligible for participation in the model is 65 based on the definition of a rural hospital developed by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania.

The Department of Health has developed three main strategies for improving health in rural communities including transforming health care delivery in rural communities; improving population health status in rural communities; and creating health care services that match the needs of the community.

DECEMBER 26, 2020