Health Care

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This week, officials from the state's health and human services agency are testifying at the Statehouse about proposed budgets for their departments. Some of the potential budget cuts, they say, seem manageable, but others they're hoping might be reversed or reduced.

Take Rhode Island’s poison control center, for example.

Rhode Island shares a poison control center with Massachusetts. It’s a toll-free number plus a staff of experts who can provide medical advice for people who suspect poisoning.

RIPR FILE

Accidental drug overdose deaths continue to increase in Rhode Island. That’s some of the discouraging news public health experts delivered at a Rhode Island Public Health Association event.

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.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

State lawmakers heard testimony Wednesday about a proposed tax on health insurance to pay for the state’s online health insurance exchange, HealthSource RI.

Federal Obamacare money covered the startup cost of HealthSource RI – the state’s marketplace for individual and small business insurance plans. But now Rhode Island must come up with the money to keep it going, or turn it over to the feds. Gov. Gina Raimondo’s budget proposal includes a tax on every individual and small business health plan – whether bought on the exchange or not – to pay for HealthSource RI.

Federal Wildlife Service

Brown University hosts a forum Tuesday on legalizing marijuana. The event will feature doctors and researchers with perspective on the health effects of marijuana. 

John Bender / RIPR

Cranston police have begun special training to help them work better with people with autism. The training is geared toward preventing a police encounter from escalating.

Every Cranston police officer will be trained to recognize the signs of autism. And they’ll be equipped to respond to emergencies involving adults or kids with autism. Cranston police Lieutenant Mark Freeborn says the training should help avoid the misinterpretation that autistic behavior is disobedient, or aggressive.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Talking about dying is difficult for most people, including doctors. But can they learn a better way to help patients nearing the end of their lives? Can health care systems learn to respect those wishes? Here’s one experiment to find out.

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Dr. Kate Lally gathers a group of second year residents outside a patient’s room at Kent Hospital in Warwick. Lally explains the patient they’re about to examine is 34-year-old Melissa Smith. She has advanced ovarian cancer. Until now, she’s been in hospice care at home, keeping comfortable.

RIPR FILE

State lawmakers heard testimony Wednesday on several proposals to cut Medicaid spending. Governor Gina Raimondo’s proposed budget would cut state payments to nursing homes by three percent. 

That’s on top of rates that have stayed stagnant for a while.  Woonsocket nursing home administrator Shaun Cournoyer testified before the senate finance committee those cuts would lead to layoffs. 

Lawmakers begin hearings today on proposed cuts to Medicaid, the state’s medical assistance program for the poor.

Gov. Gina Raimondo has asked a task force to recommend ways to trim $90 million dollars in state spending on Medicaid. The senate finance committee is scheduled to hear testimony about several budget proposals that would cut payments to hospitals and nursing homes.

Federal Wildlife Service

A bill that would eliminate caregivers from the state’s medical marijuana program continues to stir up controversy. But a lobbyist behind the bill says his client simply wants more regulation of the medical marijuana industry.

So-called caregivers are allowed to grow a small number of medical marijuana plants for a few patients. They’ve launched a campaign to discredit a bill that would replace caregivers with two growing and distribution centers. Lobbyist Peter Petrarca denies claims the bill would only benefit his client, Rhode Island Growers and Distributors LLC.

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.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

State Police are raising concerns about the state’s medical marijuana program. At issue is the role of caregivers, who are licensed by the state to grow a small number of plants for medical marijuana patients.

Rhode Island State Police spokesman Major Kevin O’Brien says last year police searched the homes of 21 caregivers. More than three-quarters of them were growing more marijuana than the law allows.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Advocates for patients who use medical marijuana are protesting a new bill that would quash a key component of the state’s medical marijuana program. The new bill would eliminate caregivers.

Ian Donnis / RIPR

In less than a month, a task force appointed to find nearly $180 million dollars in savings from Medicaid must deliver their recommendations to the governor.

Ian Donnis / RIPR

A group charged with finding nearly $180 million dollars in savings from Rhode Island’s Medicaid program begins the second phase of its work Monday.

Throughout March Governor Gina Raimondo’s Working Group to Reinvent Medicaid held town hall meetings across the state to gather public input. Now they must get down to the hard work of finding ways to save money. They have until the end of the month to deliver recommendations to the Governor.

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