Your Weekly Briefing: Health In Rhode Island, Dec. 13

Dec 13, 2016

The Providence DHS field office has seen long lines and wait times for food stamp and other benefit applications.
Credit Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Here what’s happening in health in Rhode Island, Dec. 13:

UHIP: The saga of the state’s new online benefits system, UHIP, continues. The troubled rollout has resulted in the delayed processing of applications for benefits like food stamps and Medicaid, long wait times in Dept. of Human Services field offices, and federal scrutiny. On that last point: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid has just informed Rhode Island that it will keep the federal matching dollars flowing for the maintenance and operation of the system, but it won’t talk about funding for improvements and changes until the kinks in the system have been worked out. It also wants some detailed documentation on what the outstanding problems are, how DHS is fixing them, and who’s responsible, including “lessons learned” about the rollout.

RESIDENCY FUNDING: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced legislation that would increase federal funding for medical residency programs at institutions like Women & Infants Hospital. It’s called the Graduate Medical Education Equity Act, and the goal is to help specialty and safety-net hospitals receive comparable federal support for their residency programs. In a statement, Care New England estimated that Women & Infants could receive nearly $1.5 million in federal funding annually as a result of Whitehouse’s legislation.

ACLU SUIT: The Rhode Island ACLU has filed a class action law suit against the Department of Human Services over the troubled rollout of its new online benefits system, UHIP. The suit claims the new system has resulted in delayed food stamp application processing and left potentially hundreds of Rhode Islanders without emergency access to food. DHS is reviewing the details of the suit but said that processing outstanding food stamp applications is their top priority.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA: State Rep. Arthur Corvese plans to fill a bill that would make public the names of all providers of medical marijuana licensed in Rhode Island. Corvese said in a statement that the "legislation is aimed at improving transparency, and allowing neighborhoods to know whether marijuana is being produced nearby, or whether someone producing it is doing so legally under the auspices of the medical marijuana program." It's not clear whether this would violate medical privacy laws. 

DIABETES: The Center for Southeast Asians (CSEA) is partnering with Khmer Health Advocates in West Hartford, CT and the University of Connecticut Health on a study (funded by the National Institutes of Health) that looks at new ways to prevent diabetes among Southeast Asians. CSEA says it will use community health workers to facilitate lifestyle changes and provide medication management.  CSEA says it's excited about the "opportunity to collaborate on this important study which has the potential to dramatically improve the health of the Cambodian American community."