The House and Senate discuss access to health care during a hearing in Scranton

SCRANTON, May 14, 2024 – State Senator Katie Muth (D-Chester/Montgomery/Berks), Chair of the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Policy Committee, and State Representative Ryan Bizzarro, Chair of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Democratic Policy Committee, today joined Senator Marty Flynn (D-Lackawanna/Lzerne) and Rep. Bridget Kosierowski (D-Lackawanna) in Scranton to co-host a public hearing on the lack of access to health care in communities across Pennsylvania.

“Hospital closures across the state have increased dramatically over the past few years, leaving many without access to emergency services, maternity care services or specialists,” Muth said. “Access to high-quality, timely health care is a human right, and continuing the for-profit health care business model is not sustainable or equitable. We need a system overhaul that ensures patient-centered care, not for-profit care.”

The hearing, held in Lackawanna County in downtown Scranton, included a discussion of the crisis caused by hospital closures across the commonwealth. According to statistics provided by the Pennsylvania Health Access Network, 33 hospital closures have occurred in Pennsylvania over the past 20 years, including 15 in the past five years.

“This is not a problem that affects just one area. We are seeing health care deserts emerging across the Commonwealth,” Bizzarro said. “It’s time to ensure all Pennsylvanians have fair and equal access to health care. Let’s start by solving the labor shortage and other problems that are causing hospital closures.”

A 2023 report from the Pennsylvania Department of Health found that barriers to health care are often determined by where a person lives. In 2022, approximately 2 million Pennsylvanians lived in areas designated as Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs), and 500,000 lived in primary care HPSAs.

“Today’s policy hearing at Lackawanna College brought special attention to the dismal state of health care in Pennsylvania,” Flynn added. “As we discussed the disturbing trend of hospital closures and rising health care costs, it became clear that too many Pennsylvanians are left without the vital care they need. It is essential to take action now to ensure that all citizens have access to high-quality health care.”

According to testimony at the hearing, Pennsylvania will need approximately 1,000 or more additional primary care physicians over the next six years. Mercer’s projection showed that by 2026, Pennsylvania will have the nation’s largest shortage of registered nurses (20,345) and the third-largest shortage of mental health professionals (6,330) and nurse support staff (277,711).

“As a nurse, I saw that too many patients were admitted to our hospital with advanced disease because they had not previously accessed preventable care. We have to fix it, because here, in the Republic of Poland, we deserve something better,” added Kosierowski. “We have many challenges to overcome, but I am confident we can find solutions and reduce health care deserts in Pennsylvania.”

Two bills have been submitted to the Senate that are intended to solve the problem of hospital closures. Senate Bill No. 83, introduced by Senator Muth, would require approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Health before purchasing a hospital or hospital system. Senate Bill 83 would also require the Department of Health to review applications, conduct public hearings and prepare impact statements. It would also require price transparency on the part of hospitals or hospital systems so that patients have full access to the costs of goods and services provided.

Second bill, Senate Bill 548 introduced by Senator Tim Kearney (D-Delaware) would give the Attorney General the ability to review and challenge mergers, acquisitions, dividend recapitalizations, and other key hospital and nursing home transactions that enrich shareholders but threaten the public interest in access to quality care.

“The health care industry is undergoing a protracted transformation that is depriving millions of Pennsylvanians of access to quality care,” Kearney added. “Legislators must enact protections like my bill SB548 to prevent the health care consolidation that is driving service cuts, closures and rising prices.”

Other hearing participants included Dr. Tammy Torres, president of Lehigh Valley Hospital Hazleton; Patrick Keenan, director of policy and partnerships, Pennsylvania Health Care Access Network; and state Reps. Kyle Mullins (D-Lackawanna), Kyle Donahue (D-Lackawanna), Dan Williams (D-Chester), Leanne Krueger (D-Delaware) and Jessica Benham (D-Allegheny).

For more information about this policy hearing and to access all testimony submitted and the full recording of today’s hearing, please visit

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