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By Richard Asinof
PROVIDENCE – After a lengthy and often frank discussion, the state’s Health Planning Advisory Council reached consensus at its May 13 meeting on future priorities for its work in the coming year, in alignment with the R.I. General Assembly’s statutory directions.
At the top of next year’s agenda will be research quantifying the “total spend” of the health sector, laying the ground work to evaluate whether Rhode Island should follow a similar path to Massachusetts, where the state legislature created a cost commission, setting an annual target of total health care spending, with the goal of keeping costs in line with the overall growth of the state’s economy.
The council’s second task will be to develop a detailed financial analysis of the state’s behavioral health and substance abuse services, including both the public and private sectors, as well as the costs incurred by gaps in services – such as de facto role played by the state’s correctional facilities in caring for substance abusers because of lack of access to treatment.
A third task on the agenda will be to look at the make-up of the primary care workforce in Rhode Island, providing analysis that includes nurse practitioners, nurse managers, physicians’ assistants and other staffing related to the expansion of primary care practices and patient-centered medical homes.
A fourth task will be to develop a comprehensive database related to pediatrics and the care of children in Rhode Island, focused on cost and outcomes.
The council, created by the R.I. General Assembly in 2013, consists of 26 of the top echelon of leaders of Rhode Island’s health care delivery system – including Dr. Timothy J. Babineau, president and CEO of Lifespan, Dennis D, Keefe, president and CEO of Care New England, Peter Andruszkiewicz, president and CEO of Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, Jodi Bourque, R.I. Assistant Attorney General, Dale Klatzker, president and CEO of The Providence Center, pediatrician Dr. Patricia Flanagan, Edward Quinlan, president of the Hospital Association of Rhode Island, Dr. Michael Fine, director of the R.I. Department of Health, Jane Hayward, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Health Center Association, and the council co-chairs, Steven M. Costantino, secretary of the R.I. Executive Office of Health and Human Services, and Christopher F. Koller, R.I. Health Insurance Commissioner.
On April 30, the council had sent a final version of its report to the R.I. General Assembly, analyzing the future demand for hospital capacity in the state.
“What the council tried to do was put together some meaningful findings about the future demand for hospital services – what the legislature asked us to do,” Koller told the Providence Business News in an earlier interview. “They are facts, findings, conclusions; not recommendations. What’s going to happen next depends on the policymakers. One of the findings was that in five years, there would be 200 extra hospital beds. We didn’t make recommendations about what to do with that information.”
Before the report was sent to the legislature, council member Herbert Gray, the executive director of the Rhode Island Business Group on Health, had attempted to place policy recommendations in the report asking that legislature created a special hospital commission similar to the Base Realignment Commission used by the military to examine the future need of military bases. Gray’s proposed recommendations were voted down by the council at its April 15 meeting, with only Gray voting in favor.
Some of the council’s findings were being used to create a new, amended version of the Hospital Conversions Act, according to Greg Pare, spokesman for the R.I. Senate. As of May 14, the language of that amended version is still being written, Pare told the Providence Business News.