Monday, November 17, 2008

Critical Condition: A Rhode Island Prognosis (Nov 20, 8PM)

Since 2002, the number of Rhode Islanders without medical insurance has doubled. Why? Who are Rhode Island's uninsured? Where can they turn for coverage? Why does it cost so much?

These questions - and some surprising answers - are explored in the new Rhode Island PBS production, CRITICAL CONDITION: A RHODE ISLAND PROGNOSIS, written, produced, and directed by Maria Saracen. The one-hour program is divided into two segments: a 30-minute documentary that features RI providers and administrators of health care and health insurance, and a 30-minute in-studio discussion led by WJAR NBC10 Health Check Reporter Barbara Morse Silva. CRITICAL CONDITION: A RHODE ISLAND PROGNOSIS airs at 8 P.M. on Thursday, November 20, followed by the national documentary from P.O.V., Critical Condition at 9 P.M., on WSBE Rhode Island PBS (channel 36, digital 36.1, cable 8, DirecTV 36, Dish 7776).

The documentary features enlightening facts and important commentary from (in order of appearance) Vincent Mor, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Community Health at Brown University; Christopher F. Koller, Health Insurance Commissioner; James E. Purcell, President and CEO of Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island; Merrill Thomas, MBA, CEO and executive director of the Providence Community Health Centers; Paul J. Tencher, director of communications for the Rhode Island Free Clinic; Dr. Caroline Troise, medical director of the Rhode Island Free Clinic; Gary Alexander, director of the RI Department of Human Services; Dr. Michael Fine, managing director of Health Access RI; K. Nicholas Tsiongas, MD, MPH, past president of the Rhode Island Medical Society; Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Roberts; and Edward J. Quinlan, president of the Hospital Association of Rhode Island (HARI).

Overall, the picture painted by these experts is not very encouraging but, considering the national debate, it should come as no surprise. What may be surprising to viewers are some of the myth-shattering facts about health care and medical insurance in RI. Plus, there are a few bright spots presented, even if they will not materialize overnight.

WJAR NBC10 Health Check Reporter Barbara Morse Silva expands on some of the issues raised in the documentary in a probative discussion with Dr. David Gifford, director of the RI Department of Health; John Cogan, executive assistant for Policy and Program Review in the Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner; and Rajiv Kumar, founder and chairman of Shape Up RI. The lively discussion also examines the availability of health care services in Rhode Island, doctor’s fee-for-service incentives, the importance of preventative health care, the health care costs and outcomes of other countries, and the future of health care in RI.

Following the local perspective, Rhode Island PBS presents the national documentary from P.O.V., Critical Condition, at 9 P.M. Roger Weisberg (Waging a Living, P.O.V. 2006) puts a human face on the nation's growing health care crisis by capturing the harrowing struggles of four critically ill Americans who discover that being uninsured can cost them their jobs, health, home, savings, and even their lives. Filmed in verité style, Critical Condition offers a moving and invaluable exposé at a time when the nation is debating how to extend health insurance to all Americans.

Production of CRITICAL CONDITION: A RHODE ISLAND PROGNOSIS and local broadcast of P.O.V. Critical Condition are part of the Critical Condition Outreach Campaign, co-managed by P.O.V. and Outreach Extensions, and made possible by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the California Endowment, the California Health Care Foundation, the Charles A. Frueauff Foundation, the Commonwealth Fund, the Fledgling Fund, the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, the Missouri Foundation for Health, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Park Foundation, the Public Welfare Foundation, the Spunk Fund and the Trull Foundation.