Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed has named Sen. Joshua Miller chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
Miller, who had been serving as chairman of the Senate Corporations Committee since 2009, succeeds former chairwoman Rhoda E. Perry, who did not run for re-election. Senator Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence) has been a member of the Health and Human Services Committee since he joined the Senate in 2007.
“The work of this committee affects the lives of every single person in Rhode Island. We have significant challenges ahead of us as we move forward in carrying out the provisions of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and its health insurance exchange, addressing the factors that contribute to the ever-rising cost of health care and ensuring that local hospitals remain viable when acquisitions are on the table. Providing essential human services with limited means during an extended period of high unemployment will also be demanding, and I’m eager to work with the committee to help enact solutions to improve Rhode Islanders health and well-being,” Miller said in a statement.
The Health and Human Services Committee considers legislation and matters dealing with the Departments of Health; Human Services; and Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals. It also handles legislation relative to public health and welfare; health care and human service access; and quality, professional standards of practice and facility standards of care.
Miller last year co-chaired a Senate commission that studied and recommended the creation of a pilot program to steer people with behavioral and substance-related problems away from emergency rooms and into settings that are better equipped to address their needs. He also sponsored the bill, later signed into law, to create the program. The previous year he chaired a Senate commission that worked to identify ways to provide for a more efficient, transparent and uniform rate-approval process for the purchase of health services, particularly health services by hospitals, and to help control the rising costs of health care, including employers’ health insurance costs and Rhode Islanders’ out-of-pocket costs.
He also sponsored last year’s bill, also signed into law, to decriminalize possession of less than one ounce of marijuana; instead imposing a civil penalty. He previously chaired a Senate commission that studied the issue and developed the legislation.
In 2009, he was honored as Rhode Island Communities for Addiction Recovery Efforts (RI CARES) Legislator of the Year for his advocacy during various committee hearings for treatment as opposed to incarceration for those struggling with addiction. In 2008, as a freshman in the General Assembly, Miller successfully sponsored legislation that banned all health insurers from refusing to insure patients with pre-existing conditions. That bill made it possible for Tufts Health Plan to return to the Rhode Island insurance market, which previously included only Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island and UnitedHealthcare of New England. The legislation was developed by a legislative task force that studied, among other things, health insurance rates in 2007. Miller sponsored the legislation creating that task force in 2007 and served on it.