Landmark

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

The public comment period has ended and now the Rhode Island health department must decide whether United Healthcare can cut Landmark Medical Center from its insurance network. The decision could affect thousands of patients.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

California-based Prime Healthcare Services won approval earlier this week to buy Woonsocket’s Landmark Medical Center. But the approval came with conditions. One is that the company keep Rhode Island regulators abreast of a federal investigation it’s under for allegedly over-billing Medicare. Another is that Prime invest in primary care and in preventing hospital re-admissions. The Department of Health expressed some concern about Prime’s practices at other hospitals, but department head Michael Fine said the terms of the deal to acquire Landmark should allay those concerns.

The deal still has to close, which officials expect by sometime in December. But now some of the hard work begins. How exactly do you turn a faltering hospital around?

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Woonsocket’s Landmark Medical Center is about to turn the page on a long and challenging chapter in its history. The struggling hospital has received regulatory approval to be acquired by a for-profit hospital chain called Prime Healthcare. That means an end to five years of uncertainty for employees, patients, and the community.

Catherine Welch / RIPR

State agencies are allowing more public comment, until October 7, on the proposed sale of Woonsocket’s Landmark Medical Center to a for-profit chain as the deadline for a decision on the deal approaches.

Though previous deals have fallen through, Woonsocket officials are still hopeful about a yes vote.

Catherine Welch / RIPR

Been wondering what's happening with Landmark Medical Center? So has Woonsocket's mayor, Leo Fontaine. He wrote a letter to Governor Lincoln Chafee, pleading with him to weigh in on the process, use his influence to somehow resolve it. Problem is, regulators say that won't help.

Here are excerpts of the mayor's letter to the governor, a copy of which he apparently emailed to several newsrooms, but not to the primary regulators involved in approving or denying Prime Healthcare's application to buy to Landmark Medical Center:

Catherine Welch / RIPR

Rhode Island’s Attorney General and Department of Health officials say they’re suspending their review of Prime Healthcare’s application to buy the Woonsocket-based Landmark Medical Center.

Catherine Welch / RIPR

Rhode Island officials say Prime Healthcare’s application to buy Landmark Medical Center is incomplete.

The Rhode Island attorney general’s office and the Department of Health are telling Landmark and its suitor, Prime Healthcare, that Prime’s initial application to buy the struggling hospital is missing "a significant amount of information."

Prime Healthcare Services, the latest suitor to try to buy Woonsocket’s struggling Landmark Medical Center, is “on a buying spree,” says Modern Healthcare magazine. Prime has closed deals on six financially troubled hospitals and announced its intent to buy Landmark in the past year. The story mention’s Prime’s public relations problems, including a tussle with the Service Employees International Union and an investigation over its billing practices in California, where the firm is based.

This afternoon, I joined RIPR’s All Things Considered host Dave Fallon to talk about what’s happening with hospital prices and something called “payment reform.” You can listen to a recording of that discussion here.

For those of you who want to dig in to the issue, here are links to a few reports, studies, and articles I found helpful. Please feel free to let me know about others.

The ongoing public dispute between Landmark Hospital in Woonsocket and private insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island continues to heat up. Today, the hospital and its allies released the results of a survey it commissioned to gauge public opinion on its battle to win higher reimbursement rates from Blue Cross. Not surprisingly, it saw, in the results, a citizenry ready to blame Blue Cross if the hospital goes under. Blue Cross shot back in a statement to me via email today that it has “negotiated in good faith” with Landmark and that, as far as the survey is concerned: