SOUTH KINGSTOWN—With the U.S. Supreme Court upholding last week President Obama’s signing of the Affordable Health Care Act into law, Rhode Islanders can expect to see a number of changes in the upcoming years, among those which have already been implemented, in the manner by which citizens receive health care services. The law offers better coverage options to portions of the population, including youth, and aims to curtail health insurance companies from discriminating financially against clients.
Key improvements on the current health care include: mandating that all citizens have health insurance, covering preventative services with no deductible or co-pay, making prescription drugs more affordable for the elderly, and removing lifetime limits on health benefits.
“Part of how we focus on quality and lowering costs has to do with how care is delivered,” said Lieutenant-Governor Elizabeth Roberts. “There are things in the law that will help to change how we pay doctors for care and how we use the health care system. Washington isn’t telling us how to do that, but they are giving us resources to help change, and we get to do it in a way that responds to the needs of the community.”
The ACA also encourages states to develop responsive health insurance exchanges through which patients can more easily understand their health care benefits and rights, as well as become better educated in leading a healthier life. In June, Governor Lincoln Chafee appointed Christine Ferguson, former Rhode Island Human Services Director, to head the Rhode Island Health Benefits Exchange, singed into law by executive order last September. Financial support for the Exchange is provided by the ACA.
The Exchange, scheduled to begin services in 2013, aims to make health insurance reliable and affordable for all Rhode Islanders. Rising health care costs and confusion caused by large amounts of legal paperwork have often trapped those who are in need of health insurance. Small businesses, families, and individuals who are looking for health insurance or want an alternative to any employer-based insurance can use the Exchange as a resource.
“There are lots of different challenges to having the Exchange work well from a technological perspective as something useful and easy to use,” said Roberts. “We are focusing on that right now. I think over the long term, the challenge facing our hospitals and all of us using the system is, how do we have a sustainable health care system so that costs aren’t so high that we can’t afford them?”
“The ACA brings resources to Rhode Island to help solve them,” she added. “If you talk to hospitals today, with the burden of chronic disease and the responsibility they have with primary care practices, that has become more important, and are challenges that Rhode Island is really well positioned to meet.”
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