Delivery of Care

A Rhode Island tune, with rewritten lyrics

The debate over health care in Rhode Island continues to sizzle

Courtesy of Senate President's office

Senate President Dominick Ruggerio introduced 25 health care bills on Tuesday, Mach 5.

By Richard Asinof
Posted 5/6/24
A continuing conversation with Senate President Dominick Ruggerio on the ongoing efforts to find solutions to the health care delivery crisis in Rhode Island.
How do we find the common ground to talk about the breakdown of services in nursing homes in Rhode Island? How many of the current problems with the health care delivery system can be improved by the increase in Medicaid provider rates in the FY 2025 budget? What is the best way to talk back to a medical provider when they give you the wrong advice? Will Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island consider jettisoning their contract with the for-profit Optum, a division of UnitedHealth, as the manager of the their behavioral health services for the Medicaid Managed Care Organization they administer in Rhode Island?
At the heart of the attempt by the former President Donald Trump to escape being punished for the numerous crimes he committed is his ability to lie and to lie – and to have the news media, particularly Fox News, broadcast those lies. His apparent cognitive mental deterioration notwithstanding, the lies and nasty projections the apparent 2024 Republican nominee for President keeps making should give all of us pause to try and remember what it means to be a barometer of truth and a news source that promotes honesty over public relations.

PROVIDENCE – Paul Simon rewrote the lyrics for his 1973 song, “American Tune,” which he performed as a duet with Rhiannon Giddens at the 2022 Newport Folk Festival. Just as Giddens’ plaintive picking on the banjo provides new meaning to the changed words, “We didn’t come here on the Mayflower, we came on a ship in a blood red moon,” so, too, being a patient in today’s health care delivery system requires a new kind of humility – an ability to talk openly about the many mistakes that have been made and wondering out loud, in public, what went wrong.

ConvergenceRI had a chance to catch up with Senate President Dominick Ruggerio in the last two weeks, as his package of legislative bills entitled RI Health wended its way through the legislative process.

Earlier, the Senate President, in an in-depth interview, had shared his perspective on the challenges facing Rhode Island when it comes to health care delivery [See link below to ConvergenceRI story, “When it comes to health care, the Senate President delivers.”]

And yet, it always seems that the Earth keeps spinning faster and faster when it comes to the landslide of news about health care:

  •     “CVS Health Corp. shares tumbled the most in nine years after the company cut its annual earnings outlook for the second quarter in a row, citing increased medical costs in its Medicare insurance business,” Bloomberg reporter Fiona Rutherford wrote in her May 1 story.
  •          “The State Senate passed a bill that would shield medical providers who offer transgender care and abortion services in Rhode Island from civil or criminal action by other states or their residents,”the Boston Globe reported in a story published on May 3. “Since the fall of Roe v. Wade, we have seen an unprecedented level of attacks on health care providers, on reproductive rights, across the country,” said state Sen. Dawn Euer.
  •      “Walmart is getting out of the primary care business. The retail giant said [on Tuesday, April 30] it is closing 51 clinics and shutting down its telehealth service, just five years after jumping into the industry,” as reported by NPR’s Ayesha Rascoe and Ryan Benk.

Putting words into action    
The challenge is to be able to put words into action. Of course, the world changes when you are the patient

  •     “We are failing too many babies, toddlers and families who need these services now,” wrote Silvia Velez and Elizabeth Czerwin, arguing in an op-ed in the Boston Globe that when it comes to funding Early Intervention providers, with some 623 infants and toddlers who have been waiting more 45 days for services as of February 2024. The solution, they claim, is to increase Medicaid provider rates by 25 percent as well as adding an annual cost of living adjustment for Early Intervention staff and therapists.

The Senate President recently shared with the news media his medial diagnosis regarding his ongoing battle with cancer, and it seemed an appropriate point to renew the conversation.

ConvergenceRI: With the Senate President apparently facing surgery for a hip replacement, would he be willing to share his experiences as a patient as well as what his recovery entails? Where is he having the hip replacement surgery performed? Through OrthoRI surgeons or through University Orthopedics?    
SENATE PRESIDENT RUGGERIO: I recently shared that I am undergoing treatment for cancer. That treatment has impacted my hip – and my mobility – but the treatment is expected to fully resolve the challenges I am facing. I am feeling better, and moving better, every day.

I want to acknowledge the tremendous team of medical professionals at Roger Williams Medical Center. They are absolutely fabulous, and I want to thank them not only for what they do for me but also for the services they provide to every patient who goes there. While I may need hip surgery in the future, no determinations have been made at this point.

ConvergenceRI: Were you aware that OrthoRI was recently purchased by a private equity firm, Spire Orthopedic Partners, financed through Kohlberg and Partners?    

ConvergenceRI: Where should conversations about the future of health care regulation occur? How do patients get to participate?    SENATE PRESIDENT RUGGERIO: It is very important that the public participate in conversations around all aspects of our health care delivery system. The Senate conducts robust public hearings through our Health & Human Services, Finance and all other committees. The robust participation of members of the public helps to shape and improve the legislation we are considering, around health care and every other topic.

As an example, I would point to the lengthy, thorough hearings we have held around the Senate’s Rhode Island HEALTH Initiative. These hearings have led to amendments on some of the bills, and important progress to improve our health care delivery system in Rhode Island.

I invite and encourage all Rhode Islanders to get involved in the legislative process, because these issues impact all of us. They can make their voices heard by testifying at a public hearing, either in person or in writing. Or they can send an email to their legislators, or give us a call.

ConvergenceRI: As plans move ahead for the R.I. Life Science Hub, do you have any concerns about the oversized role that the commercial firm, JLL, is playing in setting up the enterprise? If not, why not?    
SENATE PRESIDENT RUGGERIO: The Life Sciences Hub is a great opportunity for our state. Along with the state health lab, it better positions Rhode Island to catalyze the growth of important life-sciences industries, with incredible potential.

I have tremendous confidence in Neil Steinberg to lead these efforts, and to engage the support he deems necessary as he puts in place a quality team to launch the Life Sciences Hub.

ConvergenceRI: What are the lessons Rhode Island should learn from the financial collapse of Steward Health Care in Massachusetts? Have you or your office had any ongoing discussions with Attorney General Neronha about future solutions for health care in Rhode Island?    
SENATE PRESIDENT RUGGERIO: We continue to closely monitor the experiences of our neighboring states and their impact on our regional health care delivery system. The experience Massachusetts has had with Steward is not unlike what I have worried about with regard to the for-profit ownership in place at Fatima and Roger Williams. I give tremendous credit to Attorney General Peter Neronha for his leadership in putting protections in place at these safety net hospitals, such as requiring that Prospect establish an $80 million escrow account.

I have worked together with the Attorney General to ensure that he has the tools he needs, including passage of new laws to improve the Hospital Conversion Act process. I appreciate the Attorney General’s focus on the urgent health care challenges facing our state – an issue that is a priority for us in the Senate as well – and I appreciate his partnership as we work together on a regular basis to strengthen our state health care system.

© | subscribe | contact us | report problem | About | Advertise

powered by creative circle media solutions

Join the conversation

Want to get ConvergenceRI
in your inbox every Monday?

Type of subscription (choose one):

We will contact you with subscription details.

Thank you for subscribing!

We will contact you shortly with subscription details.