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Lots of health care on Smith Hill today

March 23, 2011

It’s a busy day for health care issues at the State House today.  Here are some high lights-

No more Health Services Council?-1pm House Finance Committee room 35

House finance will review Governor Chafee’s budget proposal to do away with the committee responsible for the “certificate of need” process.  This is where the state evaluates if a hospital’s proposal to build a new wing or buy an expensive piece of equipment is in line with the needs of Rhode Islanders or contributes unnecessarily to the cost of health care.

Final report on hospital transparency-2pm in the Senate Lounge

The Senate Committee with perhaps the longest name in the history of the State House (Special Senate Commission to Study Cost Containment, Efficiency and Transparency in the Delivery of Quality Patient Care and Access by Hospitals) will release its final report today after two months of discussing how to make the cost of hospital care and the way it’s paid for less opaque.

Senator Josh Miller- the chair of the committee- is committed to actually doing something with this document.  He says he plans to introduced legislation based on the findings at some point during the legislative session.

Happy birthday health care overhaul-2:30 pm in the Governor’s room

Supporters will be eating cake and talking about how to design the state’s health insurance exchange.  Special guests include the regional director of the US Department of Health and Human Services and the regional director of the US Small Business Administration.

When health plans and hospitals can’t get along-around 4:30 in the House Lounge

The House Committee on Health, Education, and Welfare will review legislation that creates a procedure for the Department of Health to review plans to terminate a contract between a hospital and an insurer.

This proposal is likely motivated by the very public dispute between Care New England Hospitals and United Health Care (and CNE and Blue Cross Blue Shield before that) as the sides struggled to negotiate a new contract. During the contract fight, both sides sent out letters to patients warning them that they might lose their ability to receive services at CNE hospitals if the contract expired, creating a lot of fear in the community.  This legislation would specifically outlaw communications of that kind without approval from the Health Department.

Getting rid of prescription assistance for the elderly- around 4:30 House Finance

At the rise of meeting, House Finance reviews more of Governor Chafee’s budget proposals, including Article 27, which does away with the R.I. Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Elderly Program (RIPAE).  Advocates say the program helps about 4,500 low income residents afford their medications.

The program helps the elderly and disabled buy prescriptions during the so called “donut hole” where federal funding for medications drop off and don’t pick up again until the costs get REALLY expensive.  The Federal Health Care Overhaul is already paying to help shrink that hole and will eventually eliminate it, but supporters of RIPAE say so far those payments aren’t nearly enough.

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This is just a sampling of all the health care related issues before the General Assembly today.  There are many more, especially before House Finance.  Enjoy!

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