health insurance

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.

Rhode Islanders’ health insurance rates will be rising again in 2013. One reason is an unexpected dip in actual medical costs.

Rhode Island’s health insurance commissioner recently approved rate increases for Blue Cross Blue Shield and Tufts. For Blue Cross, those increases will be an average of about 3.7% for small group plans and 7.9% for large groups. The state’s biggest insurer had initially applied for a much lower increase. But Blue Cross vice president of legal services Monica Neronha says that was based on what they paid out for members in 2011.

Lawmakers at RI State House
Catherine Welch

The House Republican leader is renewing an effort requiring state lawmakers to pay for one-fifth of the cost of their state-provided health insurance. Brian Newberry calls the issue a matter of fairness.

This week, our neighbors in Connecticut began hearings about mental health care in the state after the Newtown shooting. Lawmakers and a couple of task forces convened by Gov. Dannel Malloy are reviewing the state's mental health services and looking at the kinds of public policy and legal fixes that might make it better. Should we mandate outpatient treatments for the mentally ill? Can we truly assess someone's risk before it's too late? Should gun buyers face a mandatory mental health evaluation?

Rhode Island has selected Deloitte Consulting to build its online health insurance exchange. It’s the next step in the state’s effort to get the exchange up and running by October.

State Health Insurance Commissioner Christopher Koller plans to camp somewhere in the vicinity of the US Supreme Court when the court is expected to issue its highly anticipated decision Thursday morning on the Affordable Care Act.