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6/7/2018 Senate OKs bill to protect individual health insurance costs, quality
STATE HOUSE – The Senate today passed two measures sponsored by Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller to protect consumers who purchase their health insurance in the individual market.

The bills were both recommended by a workgroup convened this spring by the Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner (OHIC) and HealthSource RI to study how to mitigate potential impact of federal changes on health coverage costs, consumer choice and access.

The first bill (2018-S 2934), the Rhode Island Market Stability and Reinsurance Act, is meant to help stabilize health insurance rates and premiums in the individual market and to provide greater financial certainty to consumers.

It would authorize HealthSource RI, Rhode Island’s health insurance exchange, to establish reinsurance to insurance carriers that offer health insurance coverage on the individual market, to mitigate the impact of high-risk individuals on the health insurance rates that consumers pay. The program would depend on the approval of a state innovation waiver from the federal government.

The other bill (2018-S 2931) would place short-term limited duration health insurance policies under the authority of OHIC, requiring them to comply with consumer protection standards that apply to all plans in the individual market. Short-term limited duration insurance policies are products for individuals who experience a gap in insurance coverage, and under current law, they are specifically excluded from these consumer protections.

The bill will help protect consumers by ensuring the quality of health plans in the marketplace.

“In the face of uncertainty at the federal level, we have to enact protections for health insurance like these at the state level. We must defend affordability and provide critical quality controls to ensure that the policies available to Rhode Islanders are truly within their reach and provide genuine value, or we will lose the ground we’ve gained in the number of Rhode Islanders who have health coverage. These bills are concrete steps to protect Rhode Islanders’ access to affordable health care,” said Chairman Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence).

Said Rhode Island Health Insurance Commissioner Marie Ganim, “Taken together, these bills will help reduce future increases in health insurance premiums for middle income early retirees, single proprietor businesses, and families who are paying for their own insurance, without any subsidies or assistance. There are very few policies that actually bring down health insurance rates, and these bills will provide key tools that we need.”

The Senate also approved a third bill sponsored by Chairman Miller intended to decrease opioid overdose deaths by increasing individual and community access to naloxone, the antidote to opioid overdose.

The bill (2018-S 2930) requires the Department of Health to develop and distribute best practices guidelines for “co-prescribing” naloxone when also prescribing an opioid to patients who are at a high risk of overdosing. It requires the development of strategies for practitioners in non-pharmacy settings to prescribe and dispense naloxone while ensuring health insurance reimbursement.

All three bills now proceed to the House of Representatives.

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