New Study Shows RI Obamacare Costs Among Lowest

Aug 11, 2017

Rhode Islanders seem to enjoy, or take perverse glee, in running down their state, especially the government. But a new study from the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation shows the Ocean State a national leader in ACA health care. It turns out that of the 20 states and the District of Columbia, where preliminary 2018 premiums and insurer information are available, premiums in the individual markets will rise in every one –except Rhode Island.

The study suggests that uncertainty created by the Republican-controlled Congress and President Donald Trump’s persistent urgings to repeal Obamacare will play a part in the premium increases.

Premium increases range from three percent in Detroit, Michigan to 49 percent in Wilmington, Delaware. Fifteen locations are projected to face double-digit percentage increases. Providence’s ACA rates are projected to decline by 5 percent, before any tax credits, according to the Kaiser report.

The rates were based on average costs for a 40-year old non-smoking adult earning $30,000 annually,  on what is known in health insurance parlance as the 2nd lowest cost silver plan. The study also shows that from 2014 to 2018, Rhode Island’s Obamacare premiums dropped by 4 percent.

Rhode Island’s Obamacare agency, called HealthSourceRI was created by former Gov. Lincoln Chafee, bypassing the General Assembly. The first director was Christine Ferguson, who was a top health policy aide to the late U.S. Sen. John Chafee and to Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. When Democrat Gina Raimondo won election in 2014, she installed Anya Rader Wallack, a Vermont naïve with as extensive health care policy background. Rader Wallack was recently replaced by another Vermonter, Zachary Sherman.

“We’re a national model,” says David Ortiz, spokesman for Raimondo. ``We have expanded health care to almost all Rhode Islanders and almost every child and we’re holding the line on costs.’’

Sherman says that Rhode Island a number of factors contributed to keeping prices down in the Ocean State. First, he said, Rhode Island took pains to develop a state-based marketplace, which has helped bring the state’s rate of uninsured down from 12 percent of Rhode Islanders in 2012 to about four percent now. Rhode Island has also had competition between insurers, as Blue Cross and Neighborhood Health of Rhode Island have both participated in the market. Sherman also said that the state’s medical regulations already included such mandates as requiring coverage for pre-existing conditions, so Obamacare didn’t put as much pressure on insurers as it did in some other states.