Update: RIte Care, Low Income Rhode Islanders, And The ACA

Jan 7, 2014

Some of the lowest-income Rhode Islanders may be losing their health insurance coverage or paying a bit more for it by the end of this month.

If you've been following the story of RIte Care for parents, you know that  many lost their health insurance coverage late last year after the state legislature changed income eligibility requirements. If you haven't, here's the background, in a nutshell: parents whose kids were enrolled in RIte Care - which is what Rhode Island calls its Medicaid program - were eligible for RIte Care themselves, at practically no cost, as long as they made no more than about $34,000 a year (for a small family). That amount has been reduced to about $27,000 a year. And that left about 4500 parents in the lurch. They were temporarily enrolled in Neighborhood health Plan of RI VALUE, a commercial plan, for January.

So what comes next?

If they want to remain on a health insurance plan after January, they have to reapply now through HealthSource RI, the state's online health insurance exchange. Some may actually qualify for RIte Care again anyway thanks to some changes the Affordable Care Act made in how their income is calculated. Some may qualify for some federal or state assistance to buy a commercial plan from United Healthcare, Blue Cross, or the like.

What else is new is that we know, now, how much assistance the state is willing to kick in for those parents who find themselves suddenly having to pay a higher premium for health insurance.

Now, the question is whether these parents actually enroll in a plan, and whether they use the care they're paying for.

Confused? Not to worry.

I turned to Linda Katz, co-founder and policy director of the Economic Progress Institute (formerly known as the Poverty Institute) for a more in-depth update and explanation. The EPI has been following the issue closely from the beginning. Here's our chat.