Rhode Island health insurance exchange
Rhode Island health insurance exchange
By Louise Norris
August 10, 2014
The Rhode Island exchange will offer plans from three carriers in 2015, up from two this year. And there shouldn’t be much in the way of rate shock for existing exchange enrollees: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island (which had garnered 97 percent of the the exchange’s 2014 enrollees as of January 4) is raising its base rate for individual plans by just 4.5 percent. Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island (which enrolled just 353 of the 11,800 people who had signed up by January 4) is decreasing its base rate by 7.3 percent. And United Healthcare is joining the exchange for the first time, which will further help to increase competition and hold down rates.
Obamacare enrollment has continued in Rhode Island this summer, due to qualifying events that trigger special enrollment periods. For the first general open enrollment period that ended in April, HealthSource RI, the state-run exchange, had enrolled 28,485 people in private Obamacare plans by April 19, and another 70,243 people had enrolled in the state’s expanded Medicaid program. Of the private plan enrollees who signed up by the end of March, 91 percent had paid their premiums by April 23. The total private plan enrollment in Rhode Island represented 40.6 percent of the eligible population, which was the third highest percentage in the country (trailing only Vermont and California).
RI lawmakers are currently considering how to fund HealthSourceRI’s projected $24 million annual budget, starting in fiscal year 2016 when federal funds are used up. In some states, a per-member fee is being assessed, but RI’s small population (and correspondingly small enrollment total) would result in very high per-member fees if the exchanged were to rely solely on that method of funding. As a result, they are considering other options, including the possibility of switching to the federally facilitated marketplace (FFM). A bipartisan bill (H7817) introduced in the Rhode Island House of Representatives in March would have eliminated the state-run exchange at the end of 2014 and switched operations over to Healthcare.gov instead. At the end of May, a committee recommended that the bill be held for further study, but it may be taken up again in 2015. If it had passed, this bill would have made RI the first state to give up a successful exchange and switch to an FFM (other states have made the switch, but they had floundering state-run exchanges). The economies of scale that go along with relying on the FFM are significant: the average cost-per-enrollee in the FFM was $647, while in RI it was $1615.
In May, HealthSource RI director Christine Ferguson was seeking $4.6 million in state funds to complete the $55 million budget for the exchange for the upcoming fiscal year that begins on July 1 (the remainder of the budget would be federal funds). But in late May, the federal government agreed to fund the state’s exchange for the upcoming fiscal year without requiring RI to pay the $4.6 million. In her efforts to keep the state-run exchange, Ferguson has been reminding lawmakers in June that the state is not on the hook for any funding for the new fiscal year.
And another bill, known as the HealthRIght Bill (H7819) would create a Rhode Island Healthcare Authority that would consolidate all of the insurance regulatory function that is currently spread across several agencies. The bill would also require that all insurance in Rhode Island be purchased via HealthSource RI. H7819 was considered by a House Committee in mid-June, and has been held for further study. H7819 is being heralded by some as a progressive step, and by others as a government boondoggle. Either way, it would put much more control in the hands of state government than H7817, which would eliminate HealthSource RI and turn the exchange over to HHS.
Rates in Rhode Island are a little higher than the national average. In RI, the lowest cost bronze plan averages $264/month, versus a national average of $249. Two carriers are offering a total of 12 plans in HealthSource RI:
- Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island
- Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island.
Tufts Health Plan had expressed its intention to participate in the exchange in 2015, but they ultimately decided not to enter the exchange, at least for one more year. But United Healthcare will be joining the exchange as a third insurer offering individual plans (United has participated in the RI SHOP exchange in 2014, offering small business plans, but will offer both small business and individual plans for 2015).
RI joined several other states in rejecting President Obama’s November 2013 policy cancellation “fix” that would have allowed existing plans to extend into 2014. Insureds in RI who received cancellation notices last fall had to enroll in a new ACA-compliant plan to replace their old coverage.
Gov. Lincoln Chafee established the Rhode Island Health Benefits Exchange through an executive order in 2011. The state submitted a blueprint for a state-run exchange to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and received conditional approval in December 2012. The state exchange was re-branded as Health Source RI in July 2013.
Chafee’s executive order established the exchange with the executive branch of state government and set up a 13-member board of directors. The board receives input from the Expert Advisory Committee (which includes representatives of insurance brokers, insurers and medical providers) and the Rhode Island Healthcare Reform Commission (which includes more than 200 stakeholders). The Commission was established by Chafee in early 2011 and charged with implementing health care reform in the state. The Commission includes multiple workgroups that study and provide recommendations on various aspects of exchange operations.
According to the state about 126,000 people in Rhode Island are uninsured — approximately 12 percent of the population. Between policies available on the exchange and through increased Medicaid enrollment, the state hopes to achieve near universal coverage. However, the state has not set a target date for reaching that goal.
Contact the Rhode Island exchange
Health Source RI
More Rhode Island health insurance exchange links
State Exchange Profile: Rhode Island
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation overview of Rhode Island’s
progress toward creating a state health insurance exchange.
Health Care Advocate, Office of the Attorney General
Serves all consumer and health care professionals with health-related problems.
Rhode Island Consumer Assistance Program
Assists people insured by private health plans, Medicaid, or other plans in resolving problems pertaining to their health coverage; assists uninsured residents with access to care.
(401) 462-9520 / firstname.lastname@example.org