HealthSource RI

RIPR file photo

Rhode Island’s health insurance exchange says UnitedHealthcare will stop offering plans in 2017. That means health insurance consumers will have fewer options in the coming open enrollment period.

  Zachary Sherman, who has been acting director of HealthSource RI, Rhode Island’s Obamacare health insurance exchange, has been chosen as the new director, state Administration Director Michael DiBiase announced today.

Sherman, a longtime health care consultant, has been the interim director since November, 2015. A Vermont native, Sherman took over the post when Anya Rader Wallack left it to become executive director of the state’s Medicaid program.

RIPR FILE

Time is running out to enroll in health insurance if you don’t already have it. And, the penalty for not having insurance goes up substantially in 2016.

If you can afford health insurance but don’t buy it, the federal government will charge every adult in your household $695 dollars or two-point-five percent of your annual household income, whichever is higher. 

And if you can’t afford health insurance or don’t get it through work, you’re not alone. Most of the enrollees on HealthSource RI to-date have qualified for some kind of financial assistance.

Rhode Islanders have until December 23rd to pay for new health insurance on HealthSource RI, the state’s version of Obamacare. Existing customers will be automatically re-enrolled in a similar plan.

And spokeswoman Maria Tocco says that means their health insurance coverage should be seamless: “Existing customers, if they continue to make their regular monthly payments, they’ll have uninterrupted coverage through January," says Tocco. "They’ll continue to receive bills and as long as they pay them their coverage will go on uninterrupted.”

RIPR FILE

Rhode Island’s online health insurance marketplace is adding new staff to handle an expected increase in customer service calls. HealthSource RI is in its second week of open enrollment. Spokeswoman Maria Tocco says the customer service center is anticipating higher demand during the enrollment period.

“This week we’ll be adding about 15 new contact center reps. And that number will continue to increase through mid-december.”

By then, Tocco says, the center should have about 120 reps ready to take calls.

HealthSource RI

It’s week two of open enrollment on HealthSource RI, the state’s online health insurance marketplace. Existing customers have been automatically re-enrolled. But some may find their plans no longer cover abortion.

Rhode Island now requires every insurer on HealthSource RI to offer options that exclude abortion. Some insurers added new plans to meet the requirement. Some modified old plans. And what happened next was unexpected: 9,000 existing customers were automatically re-enrolled in plans with no abortion coverage. 

The head of HealthSourceRI is stepping down to become director of Medicaid. Anya Rader Wallack starts her new job on Monday.

Former Medicaid Director Deidre Gifford announced her resignation in September. Anya Rader Wallack will take her place on November second. That makes her tenure as head of HealthSource RI, the state’s health insurance marketplace just shy of a year.

Rhode Island is 7th in the nation for children’s healthcare coverage. That’s according to 2014 numbers from the U.S. Census.  It’s a big jump from last year, when Rhode Island was 16th.

Today, nearly 97 percent of Rhode Island children have health insurance, up from about 94 percent in 2013. Elizabeth Burke-Bryant of the advocacy non-profit Rhode Island Kid’s Count said the leap can be partly attributed to a major PR push to get people insured, under Obamacare.

Aaron Read / RIPR

A coalition of researchers from Rhode Island’s colleges and universities have released another round of reports on the state’s economy. RIPR political analyst Scott MacKay wonders what will happen to the latest round of research.

If Rhode Island were a bench, it would splinter under the weight of all the blue-ribbon commissions and consultant-generated reports that have for decades weighed in on what ails our state’s economy.

U.S. Supreme Court

Today’s Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act means tax credits are still available for people who buy health insurance on the federal exchange.

Rhode Island set up its own exchange, HealthSource RI. And because of that, the ruling would not have affected the Ocean State either way. Rhode Islanders who qualify for subsidies to help pay for health insurance will continue to receive them.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

The House Finance Committee is slated to vote Tuesday on the budget for the fiscal year beginning July first. As is usually the case the House makes some changes to the spending plan introduced by the governor.

The House Finance budget is not expected to include truck tolls proposed by Governor Gina Raimondo to help pay for bridge improvements. House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello says more information is needed about the plan. The budget does include funding for HealthSource RI, the state’s version of Obamacare, as well as economic incentives meant to spark economic growth.

A Rhode Islander’s lawsuit against the state’s online health insurance marketplace over abortion coverage has been resolved.  An elective abortion is the termination of a pregnancy at the mother’s request. Until earlier this year, every plan offered on HealthSource RI, the state’s online health insurance marketplace, covered such procedures.

A Rhode Island man sued HealthSource RI, saying his religious beliefs prevented him from paying for insurance that might cover an abortion. Now there’s one plan, at the so-called bronze level – that excludes coverage of elective abortions.

Congratulations, class of 2015! You've got your diploma, and you're headed out into the world to start your life as an adult. Well done. If you've already lined up a job, with health insurance, doubly well done! But if not, don't worry. And don't assume you have to go without coverage. You have options.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

State lawmakers heard testimony Wednesday about a proposed tax on health insurance to pay for the state’s online health insurance exchange, HealthSource RI.

Federal Obamacare money covered the startup cost of HealthSource RI – the state’s marketplace for individual and small business insurance plans. But now Rhode Island must come up with the money to keep it going, or turn it over to the feds. Gov. Gina Raimondo’s budget proposal includes a tax on every individual and small business health plan – whether bought on the exchange or not – to pay for HealthSource RI.

Ian Donnis/File Photo / RIPR

Elizabeth Roberts, secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, joins Political Roundtable this week to discuss the Raimondo administration's attempt to curb Medicaid spending; the effectiveness of HealthSource RI; and the status of the state Department of Children, Youth and Families.

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