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On heels of pension overhaul, Taveras consolidates deals with Lifespan + Brown

May 1, 2012

In a dramatic whirlwind of accomplishment, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras is presiding over a trifecta that will push Rhode Island’s capital back from what the mayor has called the brink of bankruptcy:

– The City Council this evening passed a pension overhaul that will freeze cost of living adjustments.

– The hospital network Lifespan has agreed to make $2.4 million in voluntary contributions to Providence over three years;

– Taveras, Governor Lincoln Chafee and Brown President Ruth Simmons have slated a Tuesday morning news conference, strongly suggesting a pact for increased voluntary contributions by Brown.

This represents quite a distance from the day when Taveras announced Providence was facing a Category Five hurricane. It seems likely to boost his already high poll ratings and heighten speculation about a possible gubernatorial run in 2014.

At the same time, the legal fate of the pension overhaul remains unclear, as a story in Bond Buyer illustrated today.

Here’s some of the background on the agreement with Lifespan, as detailed by the city:

Mayor Taveras heralded the agreement as a groundbreaking partnership that helps Providence immediately. Lifespan, Providence’s largest employer, is the first hospital system to make a voluntary contribution to the city.

“The agreement we have reached with Lifespan is a groundbreaking partnership that helps Providence take another step forward to strengthen our fiscal ground. This agreement is the first between the city and any hospital, and I hope it inspires the other hospitals who rely on a strong Providence to be a part of the solution that positions our capital city for the future,” said Mayor Taveras. “Lifespan has long been a responsible community partner and a leader in the effort to make Providence a healthier city – especially for our most vulnerable neighbors.”

The agreement between Lifespan and Providence is completely voluntary. The hospital system will contribute $2.4 million in the next three years. Citing the three-year period for the agreement, both the Mayor and officials from Lifespan pointed to the uncertainty of the rapidly changing health care environment.

“We recognize that these continue to be challenging times for the city and we understand a strong Providence is central to the health of the entire state.” said Scott Laurans, chairman of the Lifespan board of directors.  “This is an important time to stand together and we are pleased to work with Mayor Taveras and other city officials to assist in the economic recovery of the capital city.  As both the largest health care provider and employer in the state, we have worked diligently to be an economic engine for Rhode Island.  Our action today further demonstrates our commitment to help ensure a strong and vital Providence.”

Lifespan is a vital community partner in Providence. The network provides charity care for individuals at or below twice the federal poverty level and offers a sliding scale for individuals up to four times the poverty level. In all, Lifespan spent more than $100 million last year on uncompensated care, which has increased dramatically over the past several years.

In addition, the Lifespan system supports the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence’s Street Workers program by donating the cost of the street workers’ health care premiums – a $150,000 investment each year. The system has also committed $5 million over 10 years as an anchor tenant in the Prairie Avenue Revitalization Initiative. Also, over the past two years Lifespan has moved more than 300 employees to buildings off Allens Avenue, helping to revitalize an underserved area of Providence and contributing important tax dollars to the City of Providence.

More to come tomorrow. For now, Taveras and his administration may well be savoring this quote from Bismarck: “Politics is the art of the possible.”

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