The other big fight in RI health care

Posted 3/4/21

The ongoing battle over the CharterCARE hospitals - Roger Williams Medical Center in Providence and Our Lady of Fatima in North Providence - began quietly. Max Wistow, the lawyer known for representing the state in its litigation over 38 Studios, in July

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The other big fight in RI health care


The ongoing battle over the CharterCARE hospitals – Roger Williams Medical Center in Providence and Our Lady of Fatima in North Providence – began quietly.

Max Wistow, the lawyer known for representing the state in its litigation over 38 Studios, in July 2020 likened members of the state Health Services Council to mushrooms because of his view that they lacked an informed view of the situation. By that time, members of Congress were already pointing to how the Los Angeles-based private equity group that controls CharterCARE’s parent, Prospect Medical Holdings, had taken hundreds of millions of dollars in dividends from Prospect’s chain of 17 hospitals across the U.S.

The story got attention in The Wall Street Journal and ProPublica. (Prospect later agreed to pay $27 million to settle a case brought by Wistow related to St. Joseph’s pension fund.)

Prospect’s management contends it has the liquidity to keep its hospitals going, and doctors at Roger Williams and Fatima speak enthusiastically about the chain’s intended buyer, Prospect CEO Sam Lee and his business partner, David Topper.

But state officials including Attorney General Peter Neronha have repeatedly extended their deadline for vetting the deal, due to questions about the underlying finances. The fallout includes how General Treasurer Seth Magaziner has said Rhode Island will no longer invest in the private equity group that controls Prospect, and state Senate leaders are backing legislation to delay transactions involving for-profit health care entities.

Matos’s moment?

Providence City Council Sabina Matos is still seen as the frontrunner to get the nod as Rhode Island’s next lieutenant governor. If this happens, it will mark a dramatic rise to a statewide position for someone who has won reelection in Providence’s Ward 15 with well under 2,000 votes.

The big health care spend

Would you believe that the U.S. spends far more on health care (roughly $4 trillion a year) than defense (about $732 billion)?

While the rate of health care inflation has declined in recent years, the overall amount of spending continues to climb. What’s more, studies find that between 20 and 30 percent of health care spending is wasted. Reducing even a bit of that waste could pay for a lot of other needs, but solutions mostly prove elusive.

All this points to why health care remains a political battlefield, a source of ongoing uncertainty and a search for new approaches, as we saw with the news last week about plans for a combined approach by Lifespan, Care New England and Brown University.

Pro and con on Lifespan-CNE

The idea of a unified Rhode Island system featuring Lifespan, Care New England and Brown University has for years been the holy grail of local health care policy. Now, Rhode Island’s two-largest hospital groups have signed a merger agreement, with plans for a five-year $125 million investment from Brown.

The news comes as the two hospital groups have experienced financial losses during the pandemic. Supporters call the intended merger a win-win. “There is no question that a local, integrated health care system is in the best interest of Rhode Islanders,” Gov. Gina Raimondo said in a statement. “[This] announcement will benefit patients by ensuring they have access to the highest quality of care and will spur economic growth by helping us attract top talent and solidify our position as a hub of innovation and scientific development.”

But union officials remain concerned about potential job losses and other possible adverse effects. “While we see the potential in this proposed new entity, we remain skeptical without the assurance of a formal agreement on services and jobs,” said Lynn Blais, president of United Nurses and Allied Professionals.

State and federal regulators will weigh in, and Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey (D-Warwick) has signaled plans for oversight by state lawmakers.

Cuervo in Providence

Gonzalo Cuervo on why he’s running for mayor of Providence: “I think it’s the right time to take a leadership role in our city’s future. I really love the city. And there are a lot of reasons to love the city. But there are a lot of people that don’t have the opportunity to enjoy everything that the city has to offer. The city has unbelievable assets, cultural, institutional, human assets. But there are a significant part of our population that has been left behind. And I think my background, and my life experience, has prepared me for this moment to take on the leadership of the city.”

Got high-speed rail?

Will a high-speed $105 billion rail connection between Boston and New York, with considerable benefits for Rhode Island, gain momentum from President Biden’s status as an Amtrak fan? The envisioned project “checks all the boxes for a multi-benefit recovery strategy,” Scott Wolf of Grow Smart RI tells Bloomberg CityLab.

Whose insurrection?

State Rep. Justin Price (R-Richmond) got considerable attention for his view that Antifa was responsible for the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. A new poll by USA Today/Suffolk University shows that many Republicans hold similar views: “Nearly 6 in 10 Trump voters (58%) said that the January 6 storming of the Capitol was mostly an Antifa-inspired attack that only involved a few Trump supporters, despite no evidence supporting that claim. Another 28% said it was a rally of Trump supporters, some of whom attacked the Capitol. Just 4% said it was an attempted coup inspired by Trump.” The poll also found that GOP voters continue to strongly support the former president.

Ian Donnis is the political reporter for The Public’s Radio. He can be reached at For more of his coverage, visit and follow him on Twitter (@IanDon).

health care, politics, Donnis


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