Jan. 18, 2024

HARRISBURG — Rep. Kathy L. Rapp (R-Warren/Crawford/Forest), Republican chair of the House Health Committee, participated in a Rural Hospitals Roundtable this week in Harrisburg. She issued this statement following the discussion:

“The challenges to rural health care come as no surprise to me, or anyone who grew up in a rural community. Driving many miles to appointments, possibly crossing state lines to see certain specialists, broadband connectivity issues, emergency medical services (EMS) coverage and staffing challenges are just a few of the many issues talked about in today’s meeting. Identifying these issues is one thing; addressing them is another thing entirely.

“While it’s unlikely we will ever solve the distance between major hospitals in rural communities, there is work being done to improve transportation to health care centers. The Commonwealth is working to bring in federal funding to increase rural broadband connectivity. Penn State College of Medicine representatives spoke about Project ECHO, a program they’re using to try to support and retain rural health care providers. These ideas have the potential to make real change. But these ideas will struggle to gain widespread traction without the right funding model.

“Many of the new strategies rural hospitals detailed at the roundtable were made possible by a shift in funding models. Rather than relying on patient volume to make money, the Pennsylvania Rural Health Model is a test of whether changing to a global budget system increases access to high-quality health care for rural Pennsylvanians.

“I’m concerned for the sustainability of these programs unless this test-run becomes more widespread. To make matters more complicated, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has announced a new health care funding model called Advancing All-Payer Health Equity Approaches and Development (AHEAD). The AHEAD model is built on cost savings and seeks to expand participants outside of rural areas, which does not align with the Pennsylvania Rural Health Model.

“Make no mistake, our rural hospitals are making the most of what they have. The many ideas shared at this roundtable are proof of that. But all this good work will be for nothing if we fail to fund rural hospitals fairly.”

Representative Kathy Rapp
65th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Jake Gillespie
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