Editor’s note: the following information was provided by the Legislative Press and Public Information Bureau.
STATE HOUSE – The Senate has OK’d legislation sponsored by Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick) limiting expedited review of hospital mergers that would affect significant portions of Rhode Island’s health care system.
The bill (2022-S 2349) would prohibit an expedited review when the combined hospitals after a merger would account for 20 percent or more of the hospitals in the state. It would also expand factors that must be taken into consideration. The measure now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.
The Senate previously approved the hospital mergers legislation in 2021, as the Attorney General’s office and health regulators were preparing for consideration of the proposed merger of Rhode Island’s two largest health care systems, Lifespan and Care New England. The merger was denied earlier this year.
“This is a transitional time for our state’s health care system. The stakes are too high, and the implications for all Rhode Islanders are too great, for us to settle for anything less than a comprehensive review process when it comes to transactions on the magnitude of the Lifespan-Care New England merger,” Leader McCaffrey said. “This legislation will ensure that experts have the opportunity to analyze every benefit and risk of major deals involving our hospitals.”
McCaffrey’s legislation expands the criteria that must be submitted for review to include plans for services and staffing levels following the merger; retirement plans, including any supplemental executive retirement plans; retirement systems and unfunded pension liabilities; and impact on the community, including community benefits, economic impact, and employment. By specifying these criteria in the statute, the Attorney General and regulators at the Department of Health would be authorized to engage experts to analyze staffing, potential relocation of services, and other aspects pre- and post-conversion.
The legislation builds upon a number of improvements to the Hospital Conversions Act made in recent years, including legislation Leader McCaffrey sponsored, enacted in 2018, requiring interviews conducted during the conversion review process be conducted under oath and with a stenographer present.
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