The Pulse

The Pulse is written by Kristin Gourlay, an award winning health care reporter for Rhode Island Public Radio.

Full archive of The Pulse can be found here.

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A new legislative session has begun. And that means health committees on both sides of the General Assembly will no doubt be filling up calendars with legislation to consider. What should be on those calendars? What matters to you? What needs fixing? What was left undone last year but should be tackled again this year? Do some laws need updating, tweaking?

Christophe Dang Ngoc Chan / Wikimedia Commons

Instead of making New Year’s resolutions, I like to tie up loose ends before the first of January. What didn't I get to? How can I plan ahead to make it happen in the new year?

Ambar Espinoza / RIPR

Rhode Island Public Radio will be taking a look at some of the top stories from 2015 in the coming days – from developments in the 38 Studios case to the state’s first female governor. But for this week’s The Pulse, Rhode Island Public Radio’s Kristin Gourlay joins news director Elisabeth Harrison to talk about some of the health care stories that deserve a second look.

If your health insurance deductibles and co-pays have been rising, you’re not alone. A recent report about the cost of health care in the Ocean State found that consumers’ out-of-pocket costs for care have been rising faster than the actual price of health care services. 

Rhode Islanders with Medicaid coverage may have a more difficult time finding a doctor. And every obstetrics and gynecology practice in the state has a waiting list. Those are just two of the findings in a massive survey just completed by the state’s health department.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

That’s a loaded question, but one that Brown University President Christina Paxson tried to unpack at a lecture Monday night. 

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Health department director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott has laid out a plan to improve Rhode Islanders’ health over the coming year.  She described the plan to lawmakers Tuesday evening, a common gesture from the state's top health official. One of her overarching priorities is to reduce disparities across the state.

Gilead Sciences

  Federal officials say state Medicaid agencies may be going too far when it comes to restricting access to new hepatitis C drugs. Rhode Island, like many states, requires Medicaid patients to meet a list of criteria before doctors can prescribe them the new medications. But those criteria may be too restrictive.

RI Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force

To tackle an epidemic at the population level, you need data. Lots and lots of data. That's especially true with our state, and our nation's, opioid addiction and overdose death epidemic. Scientists need to know who's using? Where? When? Why? How do they get started? Who supplies them? What else were they taking when they died? What are the other factors in their lives or communities contributing to the problem? 

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Rhode Island’s  two largest health care systems have resumed talks about a possible affiliation. It’s not the first time Lifespan and Care New England have hinted at a future relationship, but most of the details remain under wraps.  For this week’s The Pulse, I explore the ups and downs of a potential partnership for the hospitals and for patients with news director Elisabeth Harrison. 

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Rhode Island’s Community Health Centers have gotten a couple of funding boosts this week. The funds are intended to expand access to primary care and dental care.

Thundermist Health Center in Woonsocket will receive $1 million dollar federal grant to add exam rooms and hire more primary care doctors. 

Lifespan and Care New England, Rhode Island’s two largest hospital systems, have quietly revived merger talks, Lifespan ceo and president, Dr. Timothy Babineau, said today.

In a brief interview, Babineau said the talks ``are in very early stages’’ and are in response to Care New England’s request for partnership proposals that was released last spring.

RIPR FILE

Dental insurer Delta Dental of Rhode Island has announced more than $1 million in a series of gifts to support clinics and health professionals across Rhode Island to provide oral health care to those in need.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette / video screen shot

On Tuesday night, I joined a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette-sponsored panel of cancer doctors, researchers, and a pharmaceutical industry representative in Pittsburgh to talk specialty drug costs. I shared some of what I've learned reporting on the high cost - and huge benefits - of new hepatitis C treatments. But I learned much more about what drives the high cost of pharmaceuticals, and what health care providers, insurers, government, patients, and drug companies can do to rein in those costs.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

This week, new details have emerged about financial mismanagement at the Department of Children, Youth, and Families. A second audit has revealed the former director of the child welfare agency may have violated state ethics rules by getting paid to be a consultant for a vendor DCYF was overseeing.

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