Health Care

Rhode Islanders have until December 23rd to pay for new health insurance on HealthSource RI, the state’s version of Obamacare. Existing customers will be automatically re-enrolled in a similar plan.

And spokeswoman Maria Tocco says that means their health insurance coverage should be seamless: “Existing customers, if they continue to make their regular monthly payments, they’ll have uninterrupted coverage through January," says Tocco. "They’ll continue to receive bills and as long as they pay them their coverage will go on uninterrupted.”

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Health Department Director Doctor Nicole Alexander-Scott has laid out a plan to improve Rhode Islanders’ health over the coming year.  She described the plan to lawmakers Tuesday evening. One overarching priority is to reduce disparities across the state.


Rhode Island’s online health insurance marketplace is adding new staff to handle an expected increase in customer service calls. HealthSource RI is in its second week of open enrollment. Spokeswoman Maria Tocco says the customer service center is anticipating higher demand during the enrollment period.

“This week we’ll be adding about 15 new contact center reps. And that number will continue to increase through mid-december.”

By then, Tocco says, the center should have about 120 reps ready to take calls.

HealthSource RI

It’s week two of open enrollment on HealthSource RI, the state’s online health insurance marketplace. Existing customers have been automatically re-enrolled. But some may find their plans no longer cover abortion.

Rhode Island now requires every insurer on HealthSource RI to offer options that exclude abortion. Some insurers added new plans to meet the requirement. Some modified old plans. And what happened next was unexpected: 9,000 existing customers were automatically re-enrolled in plans with no abortion coverage. 

Gilead Sciences

  Federal officials say state Medicaid agencies may be going too far when it comes to restricting access to new hepatitis C drugs. Rhode Island, like many states, requires Medicaid patients to meet a list of criteria before doctors can prescribe them the new medications. But those criteria may be too restrictive.

Wikimedia Commons

Rhode Island is now one of just nine states and the District of Columbia offering coverage for transgender medical services under Medicaid. The new policy went public this week.

Previously, Medicaid in Rhode Island offered no coverage for patients seeking hormone therapy or gender reassignment surgery. Now, those patients can get those services and mental health treatment too.

Katherine Doherty / RIPR

The group tasked with developing strategies to combat drug overdoses and deaths, is set to deliver recommendations to the Governor. The panel was created earlier this year to help combat the issue of opioid overdoses and deaths in the state.

Governor Raimondo said the group will outline strategies to curb the growing trend.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

The University of Rhode Island’s new neuroscience institute has hired its first director. She is Paula Grammas, formerly head of the Garrison Institute on Aging at Texas Tech University. Grammas will also teach neuroscience.

Tom Ryan and his family gave $15 million dollars to URI to launch the neuroscience institute. It’s the largest private donation in the institution’s history. 

Rhode Island’s health department is looking for help encouraging doctors to use a database that monitors prescription drugs. The department is adding four new positions to a new team to fight addiction and overdose.

Rhode Island received a four-year, nearly $4 million dollar grant earlier this year to fight rising rates of addiction and overdose deaths. Now the department of health is ready to put that money to use, hiring four new staffers. First, an outreach coordinator to help promote the state’s prescription drug monitoring program.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Westerly Hospital’s parent company, Lawrence and Memorial Hospital, is pursuing an affiliation with a bigger organization: Yale New Haven Health System. The deal could bring in millions of dollars from Yale-New Haven.

Connecticut-based L&M acquired Westerly Hospital a little more than two years ago. And since then, consolidation and competition in the health care marketplace have only ramped up. Yale New Haven Health System is a bigger fish in this regional pond, with three hospitals and about $3.4 billion dollars in revenue.

The head of HealthSourceRI is stepping down to become director of Medicaid. Anya Rader Wallack starts her new job on Monday.

Former Medicaid Director Deidre Gifford announced her resignation in September. Anya Rader Wallack will take her place on November second. That makes her tenure as head of HealthSource RI, the state’s health insurance marketplace just shy of a year.


Starting next week, Rhode Islanders have another chance to get health insurance through HealthSource RI, the state’s version of Obamacare. There are new health care plans available, but customer service glitches have been a problem in the past.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island’s president and CEO Peter Andruszkiewicz has announced his retirement, effective May 2016. 


He’ll stay on with the state’s largest insurer while it conducts a search for his successor. 

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island officials say that, during his five year tenure, Andruszkiewicz has focused on boosting access to primary care and better coordinating members’ health care.

He’s currently participating in several state initiatives to reform health care payment models and improve health care delivery.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

As part of our series One Square Mile: Burrillville, we're taking you on an insider's tour of a venerable Burrillville institution, Zambarano Hospital. In 1906, the Wallum Lake campus opened as a tuberculosis sanatorium. Today, the patients, and the times, have changed, but a sense of community remains.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Medicaid officials testified Monday before House and Senate fiscal advisers about how much they expect to spend on medical assistance for the poor in Rhode Island. Officials expect a small deficit and growing enrollment.

Twice a year, Medicaid officials report how much they’ve spent and what they think they’ll spend in the coming fiscal year. It’s part of the budget process. Highlights from Monday’s testimony include a projected deficit of $5.7 million dollars for this fiscal year. That’s tiny compared to total Medicaid spending, projected to be about $2.3 billion dollars.