- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 28, 2020

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Gov. Gina Raimondo has issued an executive order she says will cut the insurance red tape for people seeking prompt and proper health care during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I signed an executive order that will allow burdensome regulations to be relaxed which could be standing in the way of patients accessing the care that they need in this crisis,” the Democrat said at her daily news conference Tuesday.

The order, that will remain in effect until May 27, bars insurers from changing prescription benefits, including increases in out-of-pocket costs and changes in what medications are covered.

It also streamlines the process for getting referrals to see specialists, and waives requirements to seek prior authorization from an insurer for certain procedures.

The executive order was crafted with input from the health insurance industry, she said.



Raimondo also reiterated that her goal is still to lift the state’s stay-at-home order on May 9, even though Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced Tuesday that his stay-at home order has been extended until May 18.

“But I won’t do it if we’re not ready, which means we all need to stay hunkered down between now and then,” she said.

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PROTECTIVE GOWNS

The state has solved its gown shortage.

The state did not have an adequate supply of gowns for frontline health care workers, but should be in good shape thanks to the generosity of a Fall River, Massachusetts, company whose owners, Owen and Charlie Merrow, live in Rhode Island, Raimondo said.

The Merrow Sewing Machine Co. usually makes and sells sewing machines and replacement parts, but is now manufacturing protective gowns. The state has received a shipment of 3,000 gowns and has ordered 500,000 more from the company, the governor said.

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SYMPTOM TRACKING

Rhode Island has teamed up with the company SurveyMonkey to track and monitor the symptoms of people with COVID-19 or who have had contact with someone with the disease through their cellphones, Raimondo said. The information collected will be passed on to the state Department of Health to help better understand the disease.

She said participation in the program is voluntary and SurveyMonkey will not collect or retain any personal data.

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CORONAVIRUS NUMBERS

The state Department of Health on Tuesday reported 218 news cases of COVID-19, the lowest daily number of new cases in about three weeks.

The agency also reported six more deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities from the disease in the state to 239.

There have now been more than 7,900 cases. Of those, 266 people are currently hospitalized, 84 are in intensive care and 55 are on ventilators.

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STREET CLOSURES

The city of Providence is working on a plan to close certain streets to some or all vehicular traffic to allow more space for people to walk, bike and exercise outdoors, city officials say.

The city’s public parks, trails and green spaces were closed April 7 to slow the spread of the new coranavirus. Parking lots at state-run parks and beaches are also closed.

Under the plan being considered, some roads would be closed to all traffic and some would be closed to all but local traffic, Katherine Hypolite, a spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Planning and Development, told The Providence Journal.

Emergency vehicles would still have access.

The idea is that people will use the streets for exercise without congregating in large groups, as they often do in parks.

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HOSPITAL WORKERS RELIEF FUND

Care New England, Rhode Island’s second-largest hospital group, has created a relief fund for employees and their families struggling through the coronavirus pandemic, the organization said in a statement Tuesday.

Money from the CNE Employee Relief Fund does not have to be paid back. Recipients must be CNE employees, spouses, or dependent children of employees.

The fund is managed by a diverse committee of Care New England employees who confidentially review requests.

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