Photo courtesy of Care New England

Care New England has entered exclusive talks with Southcoast Health System, a southeastern Massachusetts chain of community hospitals, about a possible affiliation. If state and federal regulators approve the partnership, the combined organization would become one of the largest in New England.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Westerly Hospital’s parent company, Lawrence and Memorial Hospital, is pursuing an affiliation with a bigger organization: Yale New Haven Health System. The deal could bring in millions of dollars from Yale-New Haven.

Connecticut-based L&M acquired Westerly Hospital a little more than two years ago. And since then, consolidation and competition in the health care marketplace have only ramped up. Yale New Haven Health System is a bigger fish in this regional pond, with three hospitals and about $3.4 billion dollars in revenue.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Today is the due date for a plan to cut nearly $180 million dollars from Medicaid. Half of that is state funding, the other matching federal dollars. To close a burgeoning state budget gap, Gov. Gina Raimondo has proposed cutting hospital and nursing home payments. Her “Reinvent Medicaid” task force delivers its recommendations today for finding the rest of the savings in the state’s health insurance program for the poor. Their proposals are aimed at reducing the cost of caring for some of the most complex patients.

Patients like Juana Kollie.

Gov. Gina Raimondo’s new budget proposes cutting millions of dollars in payments to hospitals and nursing homes. While their bottom lines have been improving, hospital officials say the cuts could hurt that recovery.

Rhode Island is making some progress against hospital-acquired infections. But some infection rates are still higher than the national average.

A rising tide lifts all boats. That’s the finding of a Brown University researcher who investigated whether hospital quality improvements brought better care for minority patients as well as white.

Brown University professor Amal Trivedi wanted to know if improved standards at hospitals have helped all patients equally.  Medicare asked hospitals to start reporting certain quality measures in 2005. Trivedi said that at that time, there were significant disparities between the care whites and minorities got at hospitals around the country.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Rhode Island health officials have unveiled the state’s Ebola emergency response plan. The plan spells out the steps state agencies will take to handle potential cases.

The Rhode Island health department says it’s conducting exercises with hospitals to test their readiness for Ebola patients.

In a weekly update to reporters, state health officials say there are no cases of Ebola in Rhode Island, although they have investigated – and ruled out – "a number of" possible cases since August.

Rhode Island State Nurses Association head Donna Policastro said a national nursing organization is encouraging nurses to refuse to care for patients showing signs of Ebola – if they don’t feel their hospitals are adequately prepared. Policastro said this puts nurses in a difficult position.

“Through our code of ethics we take care of everyone," said Policastro. "But nurses need to feel protected. And those two nurses in Dallas serve as symbols of the fact that Dallas Presbyterian wasn’t ready. And they said they were ready.”

It's back to school time for kids, of course (and teachers). But perhaps it's time to head back into the classroom or lecture hall yourself.

Need a refresher course in keeping healthy? Strategies for coping with chronic disease? Or perhaps you'd like to learn more about the vaccinations you need, or how to be a brand new parent. Whatever your curiosity or particular health challenge, there's probably a class, lecture, or program out there to help you.

Rhode Island health department officials do not expect to see any Ebola cases in the state. But they’re preparing anyway.

Rhode Island’s health department director Dr. Michael Fine says his agency knows how to handle an infectious disease outbreak. And one of the first lines of defense against Ebola includes health care workers and hospitals.

“What we’re trying to do is make sure that everyone understands what they have to do should a traveler come here from an endemic area," said Fine.

Since the beginning of this year, Rhode Island’s hospitals have seen a nearly 18 percent drop in the amount of charity care they must provide. Hospitals provide millions in uncompensated care to people who can’t pay or don’t have insurance. But the number of people without insurance has dwindled since the roll out of the Affordable Care Act. As a result, acting president of the Hospital Association of Rhode Island Mike Souza says hospitals may be recouping as much as $40 million more dollars this year.

When it comes to health insurance, "in-network" means a provider or facility that's contracted with your insurer to provide services at an agreed-upon rate. "Out-of-network" means a provider or facility that doesn't have an agreement with your insurer. Whether in-network or out-of-network providers and facilities are covered, and to what extent, depends on your particular health insurance plan.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The CDC released an update today on the nation's and individual state's progress toward reducing the rate of infections acquired in hospitals. The headline, nationwide, is that we're making progress. In Rhode Island, not as much.

I'm combing through a Rhode Island Senate Fiscal Office summary of Governor Lincoln Chafee's FY 2015 budget proposal - a handy document that summarizes the item in question and analyzes its potential impacts. In health care, there's lots to digest.

But here are a few items that have caught my eye so far. And keep in mind, these are all still up for debate.