Health Care

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Rhode Island now has access to a new source of information about health care activities and costs. The All Payer Claims Database launches this week- "all payer" meaning that it includes information from every health insurer, Medicaid, and Medicare. It's intended to help state agencies and researchers find out more about what works and what doesn’t in health care, where health care dollars are going, and track trends.

Cynthia Goldsmith / CDC

At Brown University, health experts will sort fact from fiction on the Zika virus on Wednesday.

Zika virus has been spreading throughout South America. The World Health Organization recently declared it a public health emergency.

But so much is still unknown about the disease. Concerns are growing about the virus’ suspected link to birth defects, but that link has not been confirmed. And there’s still some uncertainty about how the virus spreads.

Wikimedia Commons

Women and Infants Hospital has a new service for patients with serious illness, to help them avoid a stay in the hospital. It's another sign that hospitals are increasingly turning to outpatient services to help patients – and save money.

For the first time ever, the hospital is offering palliative care right in the cancer clinic.  Kate Lally, MD runs the hospital’s palliative care program.

Wikimedia Commons

Health care providers are reacting to Governor Gina Raimondo’s budget proposal. Among them – home health care agencies, who say wage increases in the budget aren’t enough. 

  The average starting wage for a home health care worker is about $10.50. Raimondo’s budget calls for a 7 percent increase for home health care workers paid by Medicaid.

But that’s a drop in the bucket according to Nicholas Oliver from the Rhode Island Partnership for Home Care. Oliver says his member agencies are having a hard time hanging on to staff.

Ian Donnis / RIPR

A budget proposal is like a map, showing you where an agency wants to invest more money, and where it plans to cut. It reveals an administration’s priorities for the future– and holds them accountable for what they did or didn’t accomplish in the past. I’ll be your tour guide for this year’s health and human services proposal.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

 State officials want to make some changes to the state’s medical marijuana program. Under the governor’s proposed budget, a new tax on marijuana plants would bring in some revenue.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

A Massachusetts resident has reportedly returned from a trip to South America infected with the mosquito-borne Zika virus. But is there a risk to Rhode Island?

Zika has sickened more than a million Brazilians since May, and may be the cause – although it’s not certain yet – of a serious birth defect. But Hasbro children’s hospital infectious disease specialist Michael Smit,MD says it’s too early to panic about that kind of outbreak in North America.

Jake Bissaro / The Providence Center

State lawmakers gathered for the signing of the newly reinstated Good Samaritan Overdose Law. The law expired last summer, much to the chagrin of public health advocates.

The law protects people who call 911 for someone who's overdosing from being arrested.

Going forward the law will protect people from being charged for drug possession or use, and from being picked up for violating probation.

Lawmakers put an expiration date on the original bill passed in 2012 in case it conflicted with law enforcement.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

For every Rhode Islander who has died from a drug overdose, someone is left behind to grieve. And that grief can be complicated. Finding help for dealing with that grief in the Ocean State can be tough. 

Aaron Read / RIPR

The House Judiciary Committee has passed a bill that would protect people who call 911 for someone experiencing an overdose. The State Senate already passed the controversial bill.

The bill would encourage bystanders to call 911 in case someone is overdosing. The bill would offer the caller immunity from prosecution for using or possessing illicit substances like heroin. It would also protect them from being arrested for a probation or parole violation.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Ten years ago this month, Rhode Island legalized medical marijuana. Today, nearly 13,000 patients are enrolled, not to mention more than 2000 caregivers. And 100 new applications arrive every week. Is it sustainable?

Kristin Gourlay / ripr

Sixty thousand more Rhode Islanders - Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island commercial health insurance members -  will be enrolled in health care projects designed to save money and improve care. 

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

So-called Good Samaritan legislation now faces a vote in the Rhode Island House, after winning quick passage in the Senate. The bill would protect people who help drug users dying from an overdose.     

The Good Samaritan law would enable bystanders to administer a dose of the overdose rescue drug Narcan without worrying about a law suit. It would also protect people who call 911 from being charged with drug possession. 

Aaron Read / RIPR

Lawmakers and advocates are applauding the speed with which the general assembly has taken up the Good Samaritan Law.

The state senate voted to renew the law, which provides legal protection for those calling 9-1-1 in the event of an overdose emergency. However, the bill does not protect those found to be delivering or selling drugs.

Kristin Gourlay

Rhode Island is entering the second year of a program that repays medical school loans for doctors in underserved areas. The program, which is also open to nurses, aims to attract more doctors to the places that need them the most.

Last year, applicants won an average of $40,000 in repayments for agreeing to serve two years in a needy community. Rhode Island Health Center Association CEO Jane Heyward says the program is attractive to medical school graduates with huge loan debts. But it could be a boon for community health centers, too.

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