hospitals

Rhode Island health department officials do not expect to see any Ebola cases in the state. But they’re preparing anyway.

Rhode Island’s health department director Dr. Michael Fine says his agency knows how to handle an infectious disease outbreak. And one of the first lines of defense against Ebola includes health care workers and hospitals.

“What we’re trying to do is make sure that everyone understands what they have to do should a traveler come here from an endemic area," said Fine.

Since the beginning of this year, Rhode Island’s hospitals have seen a nearly 18 percent drop in the amount of charity care they must provide. Hospitals provide millions in uncompensated care to people who can’t pay or don’t have insurance. But the number of people without insurance has dwindled since the roll out of the Affordable Care Act. As a result, acting president of the Hospital Association of Rhode Island Mike Souza says hospitals may be recouping as much as $40 million more dollars this year.

When it comes to health insurance, "in-network" means a provider or facility that's contracted with your insurer to provide services at an agreed-upon rate. "Out-of-network" means a provider or facility that doesn't have an agreement with your insurer. Whether in-network or out-of-network providers and facilities are covered, and to what extent, depends on your particular health insurance plan.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The CDC released an update today on the nation's and individual state's progress toward reducing the rate of infections acquired in hospitals. The headline, nationwide, is that we're making progress. In Rhode Island, not as much.

I'm combing through a Rhode Island Senate Fiscal Office summary of Governor Lincoln Chafee's FY 2015 budget proposal - a handy document that summarizes the item in question and analyzes its potential impacts. In health care, there's lots to digest.

But here are a few items that have caught my eye so far. And keep in mind, these are all still up for debate.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Rhode Island hospitals posted a nearly $59 million dollar operating loss in 2013. That’s just one aspect of a troubling economic picture emerging in a new report on the state of the state’s hospitals.

We've been reporting on what the impacts might be if Governor Lincoln Chafee's proposed cuts to Medicaid take effect - for example, what's at stake for the state's nursing homes.

Thousands of Rhode Islanders have signed up for health insurance in recent weeks, some for the first time. I'm thinking that means some might not be so familiar with our health care system, or they might not know how to keep costs down with plans that carry higher deductibles or out-of-pocket costs.

So... here are a few tools to help you navigate, from finding the highest quality, to keeping costs down, to managing your own health. It's not an exhaustive list, but a start...if you're starting from scratch!

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Woonsocket’s Landmark Medical Center is about to turn the page on a long and challenging chapter in its history. The struggling hospital has received regulatory approval to be acquired by a for-profit hospital chain called Prime Healthcare. That means an end to five years of uncertainty for employees, patients, and the community.

RIPR

The 2013 session of the Rhode Island General Assembly has officially,finally, wrapped up. With that, we turn to Rhode Island Public Radio’s health care reporter Kristin Gourlay for a recap of some of the most significant health legislation to pass and not pass  and how it might affect you.

DAVE: So much happening in health care now in Rhode Island and nationally – from the implementation of the Affordable Care Act to rising health care prices. Did legislators tackle any of these big issues this session?

Lifespan

The state’s largest hospital network is making another attempt to trim nearly $150 million in expenses over the next two and a half years. Lifespan has announced another round of layoffs.

You may have heard news yesterday that the federal government has released a greater level of detail on the prices hospitals charge for a list of common procedures and how widely those prices vary - not only from state to state but within states, and  even within the same city. The data comes from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (or CMS), from 3000 hospitals nationwide.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Westerly Hospital will lay off 45 employees, just before its sale to Lawrence & Memorial Hospital in New London, CT is completed.

Westerly’s new owners struck deals with hospital unions early on during acquisition talks. They agreed to keep most clinical positions. The 45 lay-offs don’t conflict with those commitments.

15 of the employees losing their jobs are unionized support staff. The rest are mainly from Westerly’s business office. Those functions will be consolidated at L&M’s headquarters in Connecticut.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Rhode Island regulators have given their final approval for the sale of Westerly Hospital to the New London-based Lawrence & Memorial Hospital.

The head of Rhode Island’s Department of Health and the state's Attorney General have signed off on the deal to sell Westerly to L&M. Now, the deal is expected to close June first. Westerly Hospital has been in receivership since 2011 and under the leadership of a special master. L&M spokesman Michael O’Farrell says the special master will stay on through the closing date.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

A new program has launched to help place new and unemployed nurses in health care facilities statewide for up to nine-month-long paid residencies. It's expected to start with 20 nurses and expand to 40 by the second year, with the first placements beginning this fall.

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