The Pulse

The Pulse is written by Kristin Gourlay, an award winning health care reporter for Rhode Island Public Radio.

Full archive of The Pulse can be found here.

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The Pulse
2:22 pm
Wed March 25, 2015

How Healthy Is Your County? Providence Needs Improvement.

Map ranking Rhode Island counties by health outcomes. The lighter colors represent better health outcomes.
Credit County Health Rankings 2015 / Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has released its annual County Health Rankings, and Rhode Island's counties (Providence in particular) seem to be faring worse than the national average on a few measures, and much better on a few, too.

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Health Care
9:35 am
Mon March 23, 2015

Price Of Life Saving Anti-Overdose Medication Syrockets

A kit with two doses of naloxone. The drug can be injected in a muscle, or squirted up the nose of someone experiencing an overdose.
Credit Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

The price of naloxone, a drug that can reverse a drug overdose, has skyrocketed. That’s affecting efforts to prevent overdose deaths. Michelle MacKenzie runs an overdose prevention program at the Miriam Hospital. She says when her program started buying and distributing the injectable overdose rescue drug naloxone, in 2006, it cost about a dollar a vial. Today it’s $15 a vial.

“So if we had to pay $15 a vial, I mean, last year we distributed upwards of 800 kits, which is 1600 vials of naloxone. We would have been like, 200. I mean, think about that,” said MacKenzie.

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The Pulse
2:47 pm
Fri March 20, 2015

Happy Match Day, Future Docs!

Today, medical students across the country found out where they'll be spending the next several years of their training, as a resident. It's called Match Day, and it's a celebration for many, the culmination of years of hard work.

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The Pulse
12:54 pm
Thu March 19, 2015

Kids' Mental Health Hospitalizations Doubled Since Recession

From the EOHHS' latest Health Indicator Data Book, the graph shows what percent of all kids' hospitalizations was for mental health. It's basically doubled since the recession began.
Credit Executive Office of Health and Human Services

Since about 2007, the percent of all hospitalizations of kids 18 and under for a mental health reason has nearly doubled. According to state public health data, there have been a steady number of total hospitalizations - about 20,000 - for kids statewide. In 2002, the percent admitted for a mental disorder was between six and eight percent for kids with private insurance or Medicaid, and quite low for uninsured kids. Today it's between 10 and 12 percent across the board.

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The Pulse
3:53 pm
Wed March 11, 2015

Tackling State-Federal Conflicts Over Medical Marijuana

Marijuana plant
Credit U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

In the past few weeks, two medical marijuana patients in Rhode Island have faced legal problems arising from their use of the substance. The cases hinge on a conflict between federal and state laws. Now, new federal legislation seeks to address the problem.

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The Pulse
3:32 pm
Mon March 9, 2015

Experts To Brief Lawmakers On Hep C In RI; Cost Of Treatment Likely To Come Up During Budget Talks

Gilead Sciences' hepatitis C drug Sovaldi costs more than $80,000 for a full course of treatment. Gilead says it's justified because the drug has reportedly high cure rates.
Credit Gilead Sciences

Experts on hepatitis C will present to lawmakers next Tuesday about the disease and how to prevent its spread in the Ocean State. Their presentation comes as state officials look for ways to pay for the growing cost of hepatitis C medications.

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The Pulse
6:30 am
Wed March 4, 2015

Medicaid Faces Challenges Nationwide, But Few States Cutting Benefits

A working group appointed by Governor Gina Raimondo has just held its first meeting. Their task: to reinvent Medicaid, the state’s health insurance program for the poor. That means finding ways to cut costs as well as improve quality.

It’s a task many other states have taken on. Rhode Island Public Radio health care reporter Kristin Gourlay spoke with Medicaid policy analyst Laura Snyder from The Kaiser Family Foundation to find out what other states are doing. Snyder said they’re not necessarily cutting benefits.

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The Pulse
12:25 pm
Tue March 3, 2015

Group To "Reinvent" Medicaid Kicks Off

Elisabeth Roberts, head of the Exec. Office of Health and Human Services, shows the Governor's Working Group to Reinvent Medicaid the key drivers behind the high cost of health care.
Credit Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Gov. Gina Raimondo’s working group to "reinvent Medicaid" convened for the first time Monday night. The group’s task is to find savings and rein in spending to help close the state’s budget deficit.  Executive Office of Health and Human Services head Elizabeth Roberts highlighted some of the toughest financial challenges.

“Seven percent of Medicaid members, people we’re currently serving, are about 66 percent of our costs," said Roberts. "That is a truly jaw-dropping number.”

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The Pulse
11:21 am
Mon March 2, 2015

How Other States Are Trying To Cut Medicaid Costs

In Connecticut, Gov. Dannel Malloy has proposed deep cuts to Medicaid to help close a $1.3 billion dollar state budget deficit. Arielle Levin Becker reports in the CT Mirror about Malloy's proposal:

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The Pulse
4:10 pm
Fri February 27, 2015

Medicaid Reform: What's At Stake

Gov. Gina Raimondo has appointed a working group to "reinvent Medicaid." The group must present the Governor with ideas for trimming costs and improving quality by the end of April. Sounds wonky, perhaps,  but this is a big and important job. The results could affect all of us. How?

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