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Mar072014

Press Release: HEALTHRIGHT PROMOTES HEALTH CARE AUTHORITY BILL TO WIN 2017 STATE INNOVATION WAIVER FOR RHODE ISLAND 

March 5, 2014- Providence, RI: The 2014 Rhode Island legislative session will be an active season for HealthRIght. The stakeholder-based coalition, which aims to implement Rhode Island-specific health care reform solutions, is introducing a bold policy initiative that would prepare the state to win the 2017 State Innovation Waiver (SIW). Full bill text is here (click for the PDF)

Awarded by the federal government, SIW grants states the power and flexibility to create innovative solutions for health care insurance purchasing that meets or exceeds the Affordable Care Act (ACA) standards for quality, affordability and access and does not increase the federal deficit. Some examples of waiver strategies include opening up health care enrollment in the Exchange to large businesses and changing the benefit levels or adding new benefit levels for the plans offered in the Exchange. The waiver, which Vermont and Oregon are already exploring as a tool for building a better healthcare system in their state, is provided for up to five years with the option of renewal. HealthRIght members believe that this unprecedented opportunity to drive improvements in Rhode Island’s health care system should not be wasted. The group is now preparing to enact state policy for the SIW application process. 

With the sponsorship of Senator Gayle Golden (D-Dist. 3, Providence) and Representative Frank Ferri (D-Dist. 22, Warwick), HealthRIght’s RI Health Care Authority Act has been officially submitted. 
“We have to take advantage of this longer-term opportunity for health care reform that the federal government is offering,” says Rep. Ferri. “All Rhode Islanders deserve a more affordable, high-quality system, and enacting this bill would be a powerful step in the right direction.”

If passed, the RI Health Care Authority will be established by January 2016 and oversee the necessary policies and regulatory actions before presenting the SIW to the Federal government on behalf of Rhode Island, namely to:
1. Make HealthSourceRI the sole hub for securing insurance or health services coverage for all Rhode Island residents by aggregating all state, Federal, and private medical funding for health through it.
2. Provide alternatives to employer-based funding of private insurance 
3. Promote the merger of all state agency functions, which currently regulate insurance or fund or provide health services into one Health Care Authority. 
4. Contain and reduce costs by establishing an annual Global Spending Target for all health care expenditures in the state and incrementally shift 100% of all hospital revenue received from a fee-for-service model to a global payment model over five years.
5. Establish a standard set of benefits to meet the health care needs of Rhode Island residents.
6. Fund and staff the Coordinated Health Planning and Affordability Council and charge it to develop a comprehensive 5-year State Population Health Improvement Plan. The State Population Health Improvement Plan shall provide direction to the Health Care Authority and shall be developed every 5 years.

“This is a smart bill,” says Senator Goldin. “It sets up a strong structure to advance the debate, and gives us hope for meaningful reform.” Consistent with HealthRIght’s policy goals, the Act seeks to promote a health care system that is affordable, accessible, and delivers high quality outcomes and health promotion services. 
“Rhode Island needs a unified vision of a successful health care system, so that all players can pull in the same direction,” says Betsy Stubblefield Loucks, Director of HealthRIght. “Our strategy was designed with input from our diverse coalition members who all want to see our state succeed.”

Currently, Rhode Island pays too much, often more than most other states, for health care. According to Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services RI spent $8.8B on health care in 2009, which was 17% of Gross State Product. An Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner reported that from 2001 to 2008, the average employee contribution to family coverage increased 67%– whereas wages increased less than 30%. 

Through its coalition’s expertise and leadership, HealthRIght has over the years been the advocate for cost-reduction and health promotion that would go above and beyond the reforms of the ACA. Even as federal health care reform comes into full swing, windows of flexibility such as SIW are what drive HealthRIght to keep pursuing policies that support the complete physical, mental and social well-being of Rhode Islanders.

HealthRIght is a statewide coalition that convenes key stakeholders to organize for the passage and implementation of comprehensive health care reform that will control costs, improve quality of care and health outcomes, and expand health coverage to all Rhode Islanders.
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