Sen. Joshua Miller, D-Cranston, is chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services, a member of the Senate Committee on Environment & Agriculture and the Democratic caucus policy chair.
He recently spoke with Providence Business News regarding a number of health-related topics, including Rhode Island’s efforts to bolster the Affordable Care Act, and recent application of the Hospital Conversion Act regarding Memorial Hospital in Pawtucket.
PBN: There have been a few proposed amendments to the Hospital Conversion Act. What do you think needs to change in the law?
MILLER: I would create a regional Certificate of Need process that would minimally include Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts, with a priority preventing entities from exploiting variable state versus state reimbursement rates. A robust Certificate of Need could also assure a community developed services it needed at their hospital rather than the services a hospital proposed based on potential revenue.
PBN: Memorial Hospital’s loss seems to have affected Pawtucket severely despite a review under the HCA from the attorney general’s office and the health department. Is that a function of the law itself or its application/interpretation?
MILLER: In hindsight, community impact seems seriously underestimated. The present evidence is in the volume of services now sought at Miriam, Landmark, Central Falls and other community and nearby urgent care facilities.
PBN: You seem to have a more pessimistic view of the administration and conservatives’ designs on health care than your colleagues on the Market Stability Working Group studying state requirements to insure private health care access. What do you think is the most important thing to ensure access to care in Rhode Island?
MILLER: I don’t believe I’m the only one. The R.I. Senate overwhelmingly passed the three recommendations of “the working group.” I am pleased both the House and Senate passed S2934, which will allow [the R.I. Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner] to apply for a reinsurance waiver.
I continue to be perplexed and frustrated that R.I. legislators can’t fully embrace and pass initiatives that would protect Rhode Islanders from a presidential, Congressional and Supreme Court assault on the critical protections within the ACA and Roe v. Wade.
PBN: Pawtucket senators introduced Senate bills 2953, exempting acquisitions of acquired hospitals from the Hospital Conversion Act and Health Care Licensing Facilities Act, and 2954, adjusting health care fee-for-service payments to meet the average of payments made to all hospitals in the state – apparent attempts to aid CharterCARE’s plans for Memorial Hospital. What are your thoughts on this legislation?
MILLER: If there is a case to be made to maintain or return services to Pawtucket, maybe the incentives should be for locating in the region and not to a particular provider.
PBN: Are you concerned about continuing consolidation in health care in Rhode Island?
MILLER: Yes, back to No. 1.
Rob Borkowski is a PBN staff writer. Email him at Borkowski@PBN.com.