Elizabeth Roberts Chooses Not to Run for Governor

Yeah, I’m disappointed. One of the first things I did with this blog is interview Elizabeth Roberts as she pursued her candidacy for Lt. Governor. Having witnessed her in actions as a Senator for my district in Cranston, I knew she had tremendous potential, and one day I hoped she would make it to an even higher office than Lt. Governor. She may still, but it appears it won’t be this time around. From her presser:

“I’ve spent the past few months exploring a run for governor, and I want to thank all of my supporters and let them know that I will continue to work to turn the page on politics as usual in Rhode Island,” Roberts said. “I will continue to fight for quality health care for all; a stronger, more diverse Rhode Island economy; and honest, open and effective government. These have been, and will continue to be, the focus of my public service.”

I’m guessing the pre-election polling for Chafee looks good, while the polling for Roberts didn’t look quite as strong. But I don’t know of any campaign polling results that have been released to the public.

Elizabeth Roberts Won’t Stop Talking About Health Care

And why should she, really? The more I read, the more frightened I get. The news yesterday was that as the baby boomers are hitting 65, our already failing health care system is becoming totally swamped. So what’s a future-minded Lt. Governor to do? Why, hold a series a community meetings, of course!

Elizabeth Roberts is doing 16 meetings (holy cow, that’s a lot of meetings) across the state in order to get more people involved in the process of reforming health care in Rhode Island. Ours here in Cranston is next Monday, April 21st, at the Main branch of the library on Sockanosset Cross Road. All meetings will be held at 6:30 pm.

From the Lt. Governor’s office:

Roberts’ series of community meetings will be held as follows:

1. Thursday, April 3rd at Ada’s Creations: 1137 Broad Steet, Providence
2. Monday, April 14th at Phillips Street Hall: 51 North Phillips Street, East Providence
3. Wednesday, April 16th at the West Warwick Senior Center: 10 Factory Street West Warwick
4. Monday, April 21st at the Cranston Central Library: 140 Sockanosset Cross Road, Cranston
5. Monday, April 28th at Temple Beth El: 70 Orchard Street, Providence
6. Wednesday, April 30th at Thundermist Health Center: 450 Clinton Street, Woonsocket
7. Monday, May 5th at the Johnston Senior Center: 1291 Hartford Avenue, Johnston
8. Wednesday, May 7th at the Warren Senior Center: 12 Libby Lane, Warren
9. Monday, May 12th at the Pawtucket Public Library: 13 Summer Street, Pawtucket
10. Thursday, May 15th at the Warwick Public Library- Central Branch: 600 Sandy Lane, Warwick
11. Tuesday, May 20th at the Westerly Public Library: 44 Broad Street, Westerly
12. Thursday, May 22nd at the Smithfield Senior Center: 1 William J. Hawkins Trail, Greenville
13. Wednesday, May 28th at the South Kingstown Chamber of Commerce: 230 Old Tower Hill Road, Wakefield
14. Monday, June 2nd at the Wanskuck Boys and Girls Club: 550 Branch Avenue, Providence
15. Wednesday, June 4th at Newport Hospital: 11 Friendship Street, Newport
16. Thursday, June 5th at the Cumberland Town Hall- Council Chambers: 580 Broad Street, Cumberland

Hillary Clinton’s Rhode Island Opening

Hillary opens her headquarters in Rhode Island today. Hundreds of people are expected to show, including her elected official supporters, who include Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts, and Providence Mayor David Cicilline. Of course, Patrick Kennedy will be nowhere in sight, as he is going with Obama. The only big name that is conspicuously absent is Jack Reed’s. From the Hillary for President Campaign:

The Clinton Campaign will officially open their Rhode Island headquarters, tomorrow, Tuesday, February 19, at 5:00 p.m. Hundreds of supporters from across the Ocean State will be joined by U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, U.S. Congressman Langevin, Lt. Governor Elizabeth Roberts, Providence Mayor David Cicilline, and other elected officials at 175 Broad Street in Providence.

WHO: U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, U.S. Congressman Jim Langevin, Lt. Governor Elizabeth Roberts, Providence Mayor David Cicilline, Other Elected Officials, Local Campaign Staff and Hundreds of Volunteers

WHAT: Official Headquarters Opening & Rally

WHERE: Hillary for Rhode Island Campaign Headquarters, 175 Broad Street, Providence, RI

DATE: Tuesday, February 19, 2008, 5:00 p.m.

For more information, call 751-HILL (4455) or visit our website at www.hillaryclinton.com/rhodeisland.

As a feminist and realist, I admit to being partially swayed by arguments that Hillary is the better prospect for President. Obama has a lot of appeal, but his appeal borders on the romantic because it is based largely on people projecting what they want onto him. Obama is more of a blank slate than experience-heavy Clinton. He has captured the imagination of the American people, and this is a beautiful thing, but it may not be very practical when it comes to enacting a legislative agenda. Einstein believed that imagination is more important than knowledge and I tend to agree with him, but I also distrust romance and imagination — I know personally how misleading both can be.

As you can see, I am still in the process of making my final decision about which way to go on March 4. I appreciate the thought-provoking comments from both Obama and Clinton supporters.

Roberts to Announce Legislative Package on Health Care

Elizabeth Roberts is poised to present her legislative action plan for health care in Rhode Island:

Roberts to release bold, comprehensive health care reform package that will transform Rhode Island’s health care system by putting in place a strong, new structure to lower health care costs and ensure that all Rhode Islanders have access to affordable high quality health care

PROVIDENCE—Lt. Gov. Roberts will be joined by legislative leaders, as well as small business owners and other stakeholders, tomorrow Tuesday, February 12th at 2:00 p.m. to release the Rhode Island Healthy Reform Act of 2008, her comprehensive health care reform package. Roberts’ bold series of eight bills would transform Rhode Island’s health care system by putting in place a strong, new structure to ensure that all Rhode Islanders have access to affordable high quality health care with mechanisms to slow the ballooning costs of health care.

Roberts’ legislative package comes as the culmination of nine meetings of Mission: Healthy RI, the advisory work group that Roberts asked to work alongside her as she moved the state toward a plan to ensure that all Rhode Islanders have access to the highest quality health care at a cost they can afford. Participants in Mission: Healthy RI, who represented a broad array from Rhode Island’s public and private sectors, gathered together over the course of three months to closely study the specific issues that surround the complicated process of comprehensive health care reform. Noted guests included Dr. David Cutler, Dean of Social Sciences at Harvard University, and Dr. John McDonough, executive director of Health Care for All in Massachusetts and former Rhode Island Director of Human Services Christie Ferguson.

Who: Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts

What: Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts to Launch Legislative Action Phase of Mission: Healthy RI

When: Tomorrow- Tuesday, February 12, 2008
2:00 p.m.

Where: State Room
State House

Partisanship Putting Everyone in Danger

There is a very concerning aspect to Carcieri spokesperson Jeff Neal’s comment about why Elizabeth Roberts, the Lieutenant Governor, was not informed that the Governor was going out of the country. According to Ian Donnis’s post on the lack of communication between the Governor and Lieutenant Governor:

Neal said he would have to check with the Department of Defense on the specifics of Carcieri’s Iraq trip, “but my understanding is that we were not permitted to share that information [in advance] outside this office.”

So national security now requires not communicating with your own Lieutenant Governor? This is where we have to really wonder if our national security protocols are actually causing more problems than they are preventing. If this is really true (and I doubt that it is) we are going to have real issues with emergency management, if we are wondering whether every piece of information we share outside of our office is going to go directly into the hands of “the enemy.” Come on, Mr. Neal. The Governor was not supposed to tell “anyone outside his office?” Whatever the rules may be, common sense also needs to be exercised. Shouldn’t the Governor of a state tell his successor when he is going to be out of the country, particularly as he is going into a war zone and may be at risk for being caught in the crossfire?

This is partisanship at its worst. And the results were abundantly clear in the ways the city of Providence and the State of Rhode Island could not respond to the needs of the community by enacting emergency management communication on Thursday.

We are lucky to have gotten a “test-drill” and not an even worse emergency with major power outages. Let’s hope we can learn from Thursday’s experience and improve our communication in this divided state.

Roberts Chairs 3rd Session on Health Care in RI

I saw Elizabeth Roberts at a fundraiser we attended this past weekend. She said that the numbers showing up for the Healthy RI sessions increased from the first session to the second, and they are hoping for even greater attendance tomorrow. Details of tomorrow’s session are as follows:

PROVIDENCE—Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts will convene the third session of Mission: Healthy RI this Friday, December 7th from 7:30 to 9:00 a.m. at the Business Innovation Factory located at the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation’s headquarters on Valley Street . This week, participants will hear from Christine Ferguson, the former director of the Rhode Island Department of Human Services under Governor Lincoln Almond and an expert in the state’s use of federal funds for health care, including RIte Care. Ferguson will lead a discussion on the current state of the Rhode Island Medicaid programs, the future of federal health funding, and the potential for leveraging public health care dollars as we move forward toward covering all Rhode Islanders.

Mission: Healthy RI is an advisory work group of representatives from the medical community, the insurance industry, hospitals, business owners, labor leaders, patients, and other stakeholders. The group will work with Roberts as she moves the state toward a plan to ensure that all Rhode Islanders have access to the highest quality health care at a cost they can afford. Roberts plans to introduce a package of health care reform legislation during the 2008 session.

Over the next two months, Lt. Gov. Roberts’ Mission: Healthy RI advisory work group will focus closely on specific issues that surround the complicated process of comprehensive health care reform. The deliberations and dialogue during each session will be framed by presentations from national and local experts who have experience in specific areas surrounding reform.

Mission: Healthy Rhode Island is open to the public. Invitations were sent out to key stakeholders and members of the public are encouraged both to attend and participate. All sessions will be on Friday morning and will start promptly at 7:30 a.m. and end by 9:00 a.m., with media availability of both the speaker and Lt. Gov. Roberts directly following the session. Sessions are scheduled for December 7th, 14th, 21st, January 4th, 11th, and 18th.

Who: Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts; attendees of the Mission: Healthy RI advisory work group; members of the public

What: Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts to host second session of Mission: Healthy RI

When: Friday, December 7, 2007
7:30 a.m.- 9:00 a.m.

Where: Economic Development Corporation Headquarters
Business Innovation Factory
American Locomotive Works Development
555 Valley Street, Providence

Though I am not able to attend tomorrow’s session, I hope to get to at least one of these and bring up some ideas on how to increase quality and decrease costs in health care. As I discussed in an earlier post, USA Today recently did a series of articles called called “Prescription for Change” which outlined a number of ways we could decrease costs and increase quality such as:

Advance Directives: One way is to allow states to give people the option of limiting their end of life care, helping them with forms that clarify advance directives. Some states are already doing this to good effect, and Rhode Island could follow their lead.

Reduce Costly and Ineffective Surgeries: Another way is for doctors to perform less surgeries that are costly and often ineffective. Government could support this practice by providing more public information online and in print for people to review the research on effectiveness for controversial surgeries.

Use Generic, Safer Medicines First: Another practice guideline that could be supported by government is better effectiveness and safety research on medicines before they are put on the market (i.e. regulations and guidelines that reduce corporate influence of the FDA). Generic, cheaper medicines should be given first consideration when the newer, expensive options are not proven to be more effective and may have more dangerous side effects.

Check-Up on the Massachusetts Health Plan

Scott McKay of the Providence Journal reports on the changes that have come about since Massachusetts enacted its plan to bring universal health coverage to the state. From the article:

[...] Manghan is one of nearly 200,000 of Massachusetts’ more than 6.4 million residents who were uninsured and have signed up for coverage under the state’s ambitious plan — the first time any state has aimed to insure 100 percent of its population.

He fits the model of the largest segment of uninsured state residents — a man in his 20s or 30s. This group is what Governor Patrick, in a recent speech at Brown University, called the “young masters of the universe� — people who are not sick and “think they are going to live forever.�

To reach this group, Commonwealth Care has aggressively signed up state residents to new health insurance policies under a plan that has been so successful so far that the state is now worried about how much it will cost taxpayers to subsidize the effort at a time when the New England economy is flat and the state is short of money. One early projection shows the costs to the state could be $157 million higher than originally thought.

In Rhode Island, Democratic Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts has gathered a group of health experts and representatives of business, organized labor, hospitals, insurance companies and political figures to determine whether elements of the Massachusetts plan could be successfully adopted by Rhode Island, where about 10 percent of residents are uninsured. [full text]

I hope we can prioritize getting everyone insured in Rhode Island, as they have done in Massachusetts. But we also need to look at ways to decrease dependence on expensive and ineffective medical care. USA Today recently did a series of articles called “Prescription for Change” which outlined a number of ways we could decrease costs and increase quality. One way is to allow states to give people the option of limiting their end of life care, helping them with forms that clarify advance directives. Another way is for doctors to perform less surgeries that are costly and often ineffective. Another is to make sure medicines are safe before they are used, and to use older, cheaper medicines when the newer, expensive options are not proven to be more effective and may have more dangerous side effects.