August 9, 2006

Reginald Centracchio For Lieutenant Governor, Part 1: Why He's Running and What He Wants to do About Healthcare

Carroll Andrew Morse

Retired Major General Reginald Centracchio, former Adjutant General of the Rhode Island National Guard, is the endorsed Republican Candidate for the Office of Lieutenant Governor. Anchor Rising recently had the opportunity to interview General Centracchio and ask him his thoughts on running for Lieutenant Governor, on healthcare, on emergency management and on helping small business. It didnít take long for General Centracchio to build a convincing case that he is ready to hit the ground running Ö

Anchor Rising: Why are you running for the office of Lieutenant Governor?
Reginald Centracchio: Iíve got 48 years of military service and service to the State of Rhode Island and 10 years in the executive branch of continued service to the state. I think all of the acumen, expertise and leadership that I have gained through the years and the knowledge of what Governors and Lieutenant Governors do has driven me to the point of wanting to be the Lieutenant Governor.

I can bring leadership to the office that will help move the office from an advisory position to an accountable position, specifically in the areas of emergency management, long-term health care, affordable health care, and small business. This will all help set an environment where we can continue to build the economy of the state.

AR: Without exaggerating, I'd say there are about a dozen different ways that it is possible to approach the problems associated with healthcare. Whatís the appropriate role of the Lieutenant Governor on this issue?
RC: The Lieutenant Governor chairs the advisory committee on long-term health care. That has resulted in some recommendations, some opinions, and some actions, but it hasnít gone far enough. I can tell you two things right on the front end of this conversation that would certainly help with affordable healthcare.

First and foremost is to develop a system of electronic records that is interoperable between primary care physicians, specialists, hospitals, and every other facility. Some people would suggest that this might compromise the security of our records. I donít agree with that. We need to develop the system under HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) which gives clear protection to each of us. I can draw an analogy: the United States has a tremendous network of information within the Department of Defense thatís never been compromised. Rhode Island, in fact, has a unit in the Air National Guard thatís responsible for the integrity of that system. If all of our physicians could depend on a record system that didnít involve having to keep physical records, on having patients responsible for taking records from one physician to another and on having an administrative and logistics staff to handle that, then their costs of doing business would be substantially reduced.

Thatís one area. The second area is a clear education program. Rhode Island is noted across the nation for using trauma centers and emergency rooms as our primary care point more so than does any other state. We need to migrate away from that. We need to educate our citizenry so that the first place they go is to their primary care physician. But to do that, they need to have a place to go. One of the biggest steps in this direction that needs to be expanded across the state is the clinical aspect, like CVS just started, so that people have places they can go to for things that are correctable with some initial guidance and to squelch their fears that they may have something that needs more serious treatment. If people can go to a clinic and be treated by clearly professional people, RNs, or LPNs, or PAs, who can provide an initial diagnosis that takes away the fear, then people would make less use of emergency rooms and the costs associated with using emergency rooms as primary care facilities would be drastically reduced. Those are two real points where I think I can make a tremendous difference via an education program. The lieutenant governorís office clearly has the capability to bring together the collective resources needed to help with this.

I am right now working on the composition of a new committee. Iím not going to mimic the existing advisory committee that's in place and extremely valuable, but I want to develop another task force; I have three or four physicians right now willing to serve on this panel. Iím going to give the panel a simple question. Give me several areas, maybe three, where we can immediately do something to make healthcare more affordable. Then, put the panel in a room and say you canít leave here until you come with several areas that are legitimate to pursue in terms of regulatory change, administrative change and perhaps even legislative change. I think that can be done. The solution is out there. It just has to be put together by everyone who has a stakeholder consideration in healthcare. And all of us are going to need healthcare sometime in the future.

The good news is that weíre getting older. The bad news is also that weíre getting older. The good news is that medical technology is allowing us to look at the age of 100 in the next 15 or 20 years as a reasonable lifespan. But we have not considered all thatís needed to maintain us through those ages, especially with respect to long-term and affordable healthcare.

I can tell you firsthand about this. My mom was living with me for quite some time. Eventually we had to get some professional help. She was in a nursing home for about 8 or 9 years and she died at the age of 96. I know what it means to have to depend on affordable health care. I know what it means to have to depend on long-term health care. We have tremendous facilities across this state, but they need an environment where they can flourish.

I take this issue extremely seriously. If fixing healtcare canít happen in Rhode Island, it canít happen anywhere. We need to be competitive. We have the acumen in this state to set ourselves up as a center of excellence -- for anything we do, whether itís healthcare, long-term healthcare, business, etc. We have tremendous capabilities in this state. We need to leverage them and bring them forward. The Lieutenant Governor can help with that -- as an accountable area, and not just an advisory one.

Coming in Part 2: Making the office accountable and addressing emergency management...