This morning the Supreme Court ruled the Affordable Care Act is constitutional and upheld the law in its entirety. Governor Lincoln D. Chafee, Lt. Governor Elizabeth H. Roberts and other top level officials expressed enthusiasm for what they see as positive news for Rhode Island's ongoing efforts to implement the federal law.
"I have fully committed to ensuring Rhode Island is a national leader in implementing health reform whatever the Supreme Court decision, and this just reinforces that commitment," said Governor Chafee. "It is an economic imperative that we address the problem of uninsured Rhode Islanders and rising healthcare costs. I'm confident of the clear path forward that we have marked to achieve universal coverage for Rhode Islanders, and now we can get back to that important work with this decision behind us.
"This ruling," he continued, "also will help to bend the health coverage cost curve for Rhode Island small businesses and their employees. It will ensure the continuation of provisions already in effect--including the small business tax credit on employee premiums paid that can save small businesses up to 35% per year. We are energized by this decision and will work with Rhode Island's business community to continue to implement health reform in our state," said Chafee.
Lt. Governor Elizabeth Roberts, Chair of the RI Healthcare reform Commission, the body in state government making recommendations to the Governor on federal health reform implementation was equally satisfied. "I'm extremely pleased that the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act in its entirety," she said. "Governor Chafee and I are steadfast in our commitment to forge ahead with reforms to improve access to and affordability of quality health coverage for all Rhode Islanders. That decision has put us ahead of the country in our focus to establish the health benefits exchange and implement other reforms, earning Rhode Island national recognition for our progress and collaboration.
"It has also prepared us for the federal requirements and deadlines ahead," Roberts stated. "Our priorities include a focus on expanding access to affordable care; supporting innovations in the way we pay for and deliver care; and building on our primary care infrastructure and continuing to develop a home and community-based care workforce."
The Supreme Court's decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act ensures that the populations served by the departments of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services enter a completely new environment where everyone has access to comprehensive health coverage. "This legislation and the funding associated with it allows for a health system that is easier to access, easier to navigate, and easier to understand," said Steven Costantino, Secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services. He continued, "It will empower us to aggressively integrate our fragmented delivery systems and to pursue our ongoing strategy of developing an enhanced customer service model. Rhode Island continues to be a leader in implementing the requirements of the ACA."
Christopher Koller, Rhode Island's Health Insurance Commissioner, also foresees the state's continued pursuit of an ambitious agenda in healthcare reform. "For OHIC, this means proceeding with our nationally recognized rate review process, implementing commercial insurer affordability standards that advance the Commission's work, and ensuring compatibility between federal and state health insurance laws to protect Rhode Island consumers," said Koller.
Director of the Department of Health Dr. Michael Fine added, "This Supreme Court decision is very encouraging because we know that health care reform has two essential components -- health insurance reform and health care delivery system reform. Expanding access to affordable healthcare coverage, combined with moving toward a health care delivery system that provides the best outcomes for all Rhode Islanders and emphasizes the value of primary care, is vital to the Department of Health's mission to protect the health and safety of Rhode Island's citizens through safe food and water, disease control, and prevention in everything that we do," Fine said.
The Supreme Court decision also has ramifications for the law's centerpiece of private health insurance reforms, the RI Health Benefits Exchange. Newly appointed Director of the Exchange Christy Ferguson stated, "This decision reaffirms our efforts in moving forward with a health benefits exchange. We will continue our work, with already approved federal funding, to create a place where Rhode Islanders not only can compare and buy health insurance, but also check to see if they qualify for Medicaid--and eventually, food stamps and other government programs. Rhode Island families and small businesses soon will have a place where they can easily buy and compare health insurance options. Some residents will even qualify for free or low-cost insurance depending on their income," she said.
The Department of Human Services also applauded the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the law. "The expansion of healthcare coverage and accessibility enabled by this law aligns with the efforts of the Department of Human Services to streamline the delivery of benefits and expand access to our major human service programs, including healthcare coverage for low-income Rhode Islanders," said DHS Director Sandra Powell. "The department will be working closely with the other major stakeholders in healthcare reform to streamline the delivery of integrated human service programs to Rhode Island residents."
The Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010. Among the most popular federal reforms already implemented in Rhode Island and making a difference for people in this state include:
· providing new coverage options for young adults;
· making prescription drugs affordable for seniors;
· covering preventive services with no deductible or co-pay;
· scrutinizing unreasonable premium increases;
· removing lifetime limits on health benefits;
· creating new coverage options for individuals with pre-existing conditions; and
· preventing illness and promoting health.
For more information on the Affordable Care Act's implementation in Rhode Island, visit www.healthcare.ri.gov or http://www.healthcare.gov/law/resources/ri.html.