health insurance

Today is the last day on the job for Rhode Island’s –and the nation’s—first commissioner of health insurance. Chris Koller is leaving the position to take the helm of a foundation in New York City. He leaves behind some significant changes in the health insurance marketplace.

It’s unclear how exactly Wednesday's U.S. Supreme Court decision on DOMA will affect health care coverage for same-sex spouses. But Rhode Island’s largest health insurer has already been extending such benefits.

As an employer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island has been offering health coverage to its employees’ same-sex spouses since 2010, said Blue Cross compliance officer Martha Holt Castle.

UPDATE: HHS unveiled a newly redesigned today, which lets users learn more about enrolling in health insurance plans through online insurance marketplaces beginning October 1st. I tried it out. The web site leads you through a series of questions and presents you with your likely options for coverage and whatever financial assistance might be available to help you pay for that coverage. It also creates a customized "checklist" to help you prepare for enrollment, which includes a list of documents you'll need to gather.

Rhode Island Foundation

Governor Lincoln Chafee has nominated Dr. Kathleen Hittner as Rhode Island’s next Health Insurance Commissioner. Hittner must be confirmed by the senate.

Hittner has been tapped to replace outgoing commissioner Chris Koller, who is stepping down to become president of the Milbank Memorial Fund in New York City.

For the first time, Rhode Island’s insurance commissioner has directed health insurers to disclose what they pay for health care services. But that information won’t necessarily be directly available to patients.

Rhode Island’s online marketplace for health insurance is taking shape in preparation for October 1st. That's the date the exchange is scheduled to be up and running with a variety of new health plans to choose from.

A new report from consumer health care advocacy group Families USA crunched the numbers, state by state. They found that almost 83,000 Rhode Islanders will be eligible for something called the "premium tax credit" in 2014. Families USA, by the way, calls itself nonpartisan, although some say the organization is biased because of its clear support for the Affordable Care Act.

Stew Milne

Rhode Island’s first health insurance commissioner, Christopher Koller, will be leaving his post this summer. Koller will be heading a foundation in New York City.

Rhode Island health insurers have filed their requests for increases in premium rates next year. Some small businesses and individuals could see some significant hikes.

Small businesses could see their plan rates drop as much as 20 percent or spike as much as 40 percent. But the average Blue Cross increase is expected to be about 15 percent. Tufts asked for about 13 percent.

Rhode Island is beginning a public effort to develop a statewide plan to improve the way we pay for health care. Lt. Governor Elizabeth Roberts is leading the effort.

With a $1.6 million dollar grant from the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, Roberts launched the six-month planning initiative. A series of public meetings will gather input from experts and community members. Roberts says she wants a plan to help health care providers and insurers move away from payments for a particular treatment or service toward paying for improved health.

The federal government is pushing back the launch of an online health insurance marketplace for small businesses that’s part of the Affordable Care Act. But there will be no delay in Rhode Island.

You may have seen some headlines about a new report from the Society of Actuaries (the super-smart, nerdy folks who figure out how much risk, say, an insurance company can afford to take on), decrying the near-certain rise in the cost of health insurance for newly insured folks under the Affordable Care Act.

The state’s largest hospital system is facing some unanticipated budget shortfalls. Lifespan isn’t saying yet whether the fix will include layoffs.

Lifespan released a statement saying it had asked employees and physicians to review their budgets and look for ways to trim expenses. No word yet on what immediate steps the organization might take to stem the financial losses - but Lifespan says they won’t compromise patient care and that they’ll "work hard to minimize the impact on...employees."

Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurers will be able to charge smokers up to 50% more than non-smokers for health insurance. Fair or not, a Politico article points out how difficult that policy might be to enforce - and not simply because smokers could lie. For instance:

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is one of the biggest things to hit health care in decades. And you might already have started to feel its effects on your own health care - from no-cost preventative services to the ability to keep kids on your health insurance plan longer.