Courtesy: WNEP-TV

HONESDALE, Pa. -- A new program from Harrisburg is aimed at ensuring the financial health of rural hospitals.

Four hospitals in our area are participating in the Pennsylvania Rural Health Model.

Wayne Memorial Hospital in Honesdale is considered to be a rural hospital and is now part of that pilot program launched by the governor's office to help keep rural hospitals afloat.

The governor announced Tuesday afternoon Wayne Memorial and four others are taking part in the Pennsylvania Rural Health Model.

“This is a voluntary program,” said the hospital’s CEO, David Hoff. “The state wanted a minimum of five hospitals to participate. They approached a number of rural hospitals.”

According to the governor's office, this model is the first in the nation aimed at ensuring the financial viability of rural hospitals across the state.

The governor's office wants to shift rural hospitals away from the fee-for-service model it currently uses to pay for its bills.

Hoff says the current model also doesn't promote a healthy community.

“It gave us an opportunity to do things to keep our people healthy and to get paid and rewarded for it,” said Hoff. “Under the current fee-for-service model, the only way we get paid for it is somebody's got to get sick, somebody's got to fall and break their hip.”

Under this program, private insurers and public providers, such as Medicaid and Medicare, will provide monthly funds to these hospitals.

In exchange, these hospitals will try to find ways to reduce expensive hospital visits, which in turn could lower insurance premiums.

“When health care premiums may be escalating at eight or 10 or 12 percent a year, if this model is successful, maybe they'll still escalate, but maybe they'll escalate at a rate much closer to regular inflation,” said Hoff.

“I think it would be a great thing for rural health care. Rural health care is suffering all over the country,” said Harriet Loizeaux of Honesdale.

The three other participating hospitals in our area are Barnes Kasson Hospital and Endless Mountains Health Systems, both in Susquehanna County, and Geisinger Jersey Shore Hospital in Lycoming County.