Health Care

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

The General Assembly is scheduled to hear testimony today on legislation banning drugs like synthetic marijuana and bath salts. The proposed legislation comes from Rhode Island's Attorney General.

National Program of Cancer Registries / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has helped pass a new cancer research law that targets pancreatic and other hard-to-treat cancers. Whitehouse lost his own mother to pancreatic cancer several years ago. The legislation aims to boost early detection and treatment.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates this year’s flu vaccine was effective about fifty percent of the time. But the vaccine was much less protective for older adults.

The CDC found that vaccinations against influenza types A and B were about 56 percent effective overall. But in people aged 65 and older, the vaccines only worked 27 percent of the time. But Rhode Island Department of Health director Doctor Michael Fine says that’s no reason NOT to get vaccinated.

In Rhode Island, medical marijuana is already legal, through people who are so-called “caregivers” selling to patients. The state has established three “compassion centers” that haven’t opened yet. In Massachusetts, regulators are still considering how to implement the law. Doctors there want tighter controls.

A bill that would protect doctors from legal action if they tell their patients they’re sorry has been filed once again in the General Assembly. The bill faces an uphill battle.

Rhode Island Department of Health

While flu season is technically still here, Rhode Island’s Department of Health has lifted its declaration of “widespread” flu. More on the state’s response to a tough season.

Department of health head Dr. Michael Fine says he’s pleased that more health care workers and members of the general population got vaccinated against the flu this year than last. But he says the state can do better than 50%.

“If we had vaccinated instead of 500,000 Rhode Islanders, 900,000 or more, we would have expected to see many fewer hospitalizations and many fewer illnesses.”

Rhode Islanders’ health insurance rates will be rising again in 2013. One reason is an unexpected dip in actual medical costs.

Rhode Island’s health insurance commissioner recently approved rate increases for Blue Cross Blue Shield and Tufts. For Blue Cross, those increases will be an average of about 3.7% for small group plans and 7.9% for large groups. The state’s biggest insurer had initially applied for a much lower increase. But Blue Cross vice president of legal services Monica Neronha says that was based on what they paid out for members in 2011.

A proposal is taking shape to divert frequent users of emergency rooms into a substance abuse treatment facility, instead. Rhode Island’s Department of Behavioral Healthcare has pitched a pilot program for Providence that would transport drunk or high people to a sobering center. Staff there could then connect them with more treatment or housing and job services. Dale Klatzker heads The Providence Center, one of the state’s largest community mental health organizations. He says marshaling the resources to address this social problem will be difficult.

Photo by: Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

A new partnership between The Providence Center and the Greater Providence YMCA launches today to help people recovering from drug addiction lead healthier lives. The second Anchor Recovery Community Center is now open for business.

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."

Rhode Island Department of Health

Rhode Island Department of Health director Dr. Michael Fine says Rhode Island must address prescription drug abuse. Fine’s comments come as part of a list of priorities he’s shared with lawmakers.

Topping the list: ending deaths from prescription drug overdoses and colorectal cancer, as well as curbing the transmission of new HIV cases in Rhode Island. Fine also wants to reduce the number of premature births and C-section deliveries.

Westerly Hospital is another step closer to being acquired by New London-based L&M Hospital.

Rhode Island’s department of health and the attorney general’s office say they’ve received a complete application from L&M. The state agencies now have 90 days to review it. If they accept L&M’s offer, Westerly could be the first hospital acquired under the state’s new Hospital Conversions Act.

Brown University's medical school plans to launch a new program for medical students who want to focus on primary care. The program also aims to boost the number of primary care doctors in Rhode Island.

Rhode Island has selected Deloitte Consulting to build its online health insurance exchange. It’s the next step in the state’s effort to get the exchange up and running by October.

The Rhode Island Business Group on Health says it has struck an agreement with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island that will increase transparency about health care costs. What insurers pay health care providers for the services they cover has, until now, been kept private.

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