Your Weekly Briefing: Health In Rhode Island, Jan. 17

Jan 17, 2017

Credit Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

What’s happening in health care in Rhode Island, Jan. 17th:

UHIP: Woes continue. Governor Gina Raimondo, frustrated by the lack of progress fixing problems with the trouble online benefits system, has accepted the resignations of two top officials involved in the program. 

Department of Human Services head Melba Depeña-Affigne is out, along with chief digital officer Thom Guertin. Raimondo has reassigned her own chief operating officer, Eric Beane, to parachute in and diagnose UHIP’s problems. In addition, she’s suspending further payments to system "implementer" Deloitte and withholding $15 million owed to the vendor until her team can conduct a complete review of the consultancy’s performance. The Department of Human Services is in the process of hiring 35 additional staffers to help process the backlog of applications and payments. Those include things like applications for Medicaid or food stamps, and payments to vendors like nursing homes (whose operators are pretty furious right now for having received few payments if any for Medicaid patients since the system went live.)

BABIES: Rhode Island Hospital has (re)filed its application to create a nearly 31-bed obstetrics unit, right across the way from Women and Infants Hospital. State health regulators now have to decide if it’s merited. RIH says it’s a matter of adding a service that would complement what it’s already offering. The hospital has a women’s health service and already delivers babies, but it says a new unit would enable it to provide more comprehensive medicine, especially to pregnant women at high risk. Women and Infants says it already provides this kind of comprehensive care. The move comes at a time when births are on the decline in Rhode Island.

DISABILITIES: A new program will allow Rhode Islanders living with disabilities and their families to save for disability-related expenses without sacrificing their eligibility for federal disability assistance programs for the first time. The program is called “ABLE,” and it allows the disabled to save up to $14,000 a year or $100,000 total before social security benefits are cut in an investment account. The accounts carry a .3 percent fee, and are held by a Warwick-based company called Acensus. By spring they’ll come with a debit card.

BULLYING: Rhode Island Kids Count has a new issue brief on bullying. The brief includes data on who gets bullied in Rhode Island, details on subgroups affected, and suggests some interventions and policies to prevent bullying.