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5/1/2017 Senate Policy Caucus bill will enact ACA at state level
STATE HOUSE – The Senate Policy Caucus and Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio have introduced legislation meant to protect Rhode Island consumers from changes at the federal level should Congress repeal or weaken the Affordable Care Act.

The bill, which will have a hearing before the Health and Human Services Committee tomorrow, Tuesday, May 2, at the rise of the Senate (around 4:30 p.m.) in the Senate Lounge on the second floor of the State House, is also designed to provide predictability to insurers, stabilizing the Rhode Island insurance market despite the undetermined future of the federal law.

“Whatever Congress may do, we want to ensure that Rhode Islanders remain adequately insured. Our legislation enacts the Affordable Care Act’s protections that in most instances have been in place since 2010 at the state level so that no one loses insurance protections if Congress repeals or amends the ACA. It also tells insurers that, here in Rhode Island, access to quality insurance is not going to change, so they know what benefits and coverage they can offer to policyholders. They have to be able to know the parameters to which they’re going to be held in the near future in order to write policies. This bill will protect Rhode Islanders’ health and wallets, no matter what politics play out in Washington,” said Senate Policy Caucus Chairman Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence), the prime sponsor of the legislation (2017-S 0831).

Named the 2017 Market Stabilization and Consumer Protection Act, the bill is cosponsored by Senate President Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence), and the other members of the Policy Caucus, Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Newport, Tiverton), Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence) and Sen. Gayle L. Goldin (D-Dist. 3. Providence). It is the first bill introduced by the newly formed caucus, named by President Ruggerio when he was elected president last month.

The legislation enacts into state law the current insurance practices that protect consumers under the ACA, such as:
  • Giving people clearer explanations of their benefits.
  • Prohibiting annual limits and lifetime dollar caps on coverage for essential benefits.
  • Requiring that insurers keep their administrative costs in check.
  • Prohibiting insurer discrimination against providers operating under state law (although credentialing and networks would still be allowed).
  • Guaranteeing that dependents up to age 26 can stay on their parent’s plan.
  • Guaranteeing protections against pre-existing condition exclusions.
  • Requiring 10 essential benefit coverages that must be included at every tier of coverage (preventive services, maternity, hospital, mental health, etc.).
  • Guaranteeing issue and renewal so no one can be denied a policy, even if sick.
  • Allowing discounts for wellness programs.
  • Allowing self-employed “sole proprietors” to buy insurance as businesses, if the federal law changes to allow it. (State law used to allow this, but federal law prohibited it in 2016.)
  • Allowing insurance premium rates to vary only by age (not gender or health).
  • Allowing the state health insurance commissioner to step in with rules if federal law creates significant numbers of uninsured or market disruption and the General Assembly is not in session.
The legislation was introduced Thursday and was assigned to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, also chaired by Senator Miller. 

For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-1923