Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

I wish I could be in two places at once. This Friday, two health policy-related conferences take place simultaneously in Warwick. Here's a bit more about each, and why the issues they're covering matter to Rhode Islanders.

Rhode Island has been given the green light for a pilot program to coordinate health care for people enrolled in both Medicare and Medicaid. They're known as “dual eligibles” and have to navigate two complex systems to get the care they need.

Rhode Island Community Food Bank will begin delivering boxes of food to low-income seniors. That’s thanks to the expansion of a federal program for seniors in need, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program.

Boxes of canned fruit and vegetables, cereal, pasta and other items will be delivered to low income elderly Rhode Islanders starting this summer. Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) helped secure federal funding to bring the US Department of Agriculture nutrition program for poor seniors to Rhode Island and six other states.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

This story is part of our series “Rising Tide,” about how – or whether - Rhode Islanders are emerging from the deepest economic recession since the 1930s. The question we’re asking is: does a rising tide really lift all boats, or are some Rhode Islanders still being left behind?

Today, we visit a diner in Warwick, where a group of women have joined forces to beat tough times.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Maybe you didn’t know it, but by state law no new nursing homes can be built in Rhode Island unless the owners agree to build a new kind of nursing home. This week state officials approved the application of the first new home since the moratorium began. It’s based on a concept called “culture change.” And Rhode Island Public Radio health care reporter Kristin Gourlay takes us to a home that’s already adopted it.

I recently attended a conference at Rhode Island College about the health and social welfare needs of the Latino elderly in Rhode Island. And what struck me is something a couple of presenters focused on: the growing isolation of older Latinos here.

It's not something that was on my radar before, but it seems their numbers and needs are growing (there are nearly 9,000 Latinos in Rhode Island aged 60 and up). And really, their struggles are similar to those of other ethnic communities, even if language, education, and immigration issues compound them.

Aaron Read / RIPR

New rules for Medicare Advantage plan members give seniors more flexibility to opt out of plans that drop their doctors from the network.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has announced that Medicare Advantage plan members will be able to switch plans if those plans drop doctors mid-year without cause. These are Medicare plans offered by private insurance companies and often operate like HMOs.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee has proposed $43 million in cuts to the state's Medicaid program. That's the program that provides health insurance for the poor and disabled. And it's recently been expanded under Obamacare.

And while Chafee's budget wouldn't cut services for Medicaid recipients, it would have an impact on how much health care providers are paid to care for Medicaid patients. To learn more, Rhode Island Public Radio's health care reporter Kristin Gourlay sat down with Virginia Burke, head of the Rhode Island Health Care Association, whose members are mainly nursing homes.

A federal judge in Connecticut is blocking United Healthcare’s move to drop hundreds of doctors from its Medicare Advantage network.

The Hartford Courant reports that the Fairfield and Hartford County Medical Associations convinced the court that removing the more than 2-thousand doctors in Connecticut from the health insurance network would be too damaging. And that the insurer plans to appeal the decision.

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin and Health Department director Michael Fine have sent a letter to the CEO of United Healthcare New England expressing their concern over the insurer’s dropping of dozens of doctors from its managed Medicare plan in the state. They want United to reinstate doctors until they submit a plan to handle the transition.

Wikimedia Commons

United Healthcare has notified an unknown number of Rhode Island doctors that they’re being cut from its Medicare Advantage plan network. The news comes during Medicare’s open enrollment period and could affect thousands of senior citizens in the Ocean State.

Medical School / Tufts University

Roger Williams Medical Center and Fatima Hospital have opened what they say are the state’s first emergency rooms designed to take better care of the elderly.

Hospital officials say it’s taken a year to renovate and retrofit both emergency rooms so that the physical environments are safer and more welcoming for seniors. Think non-skid floors, large print hospital forms, and portable devices to help the hard of hearing.

US Dept. of Health and Human Services / Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Governor Lincoln Chafee joined Meals on Wheels RI today for the start of the program “March for Meals.”  

The nationwide campaign works to increase the awareness of senior hunger, recruit volunteers, and draw donations.

Governor Chafee accompanied Meals on Wheels on their lunch route and personally served 2 seniors. 

In last night's State of the Union address, President Barack Obama mentioned health care five times (by my count). One, later in the address, referred to making sure military veterans get the mental health care they need. The other mentions had to do with Medicare: as the nation ages, it's the biggest contributor to our nation's deficit.

Here's what he said: