Fellow Rhode Islanders,
"After a century of striving, after a year of debate, after a historic vote, health care reform is no longer an unmet promise. It is the law of the land," President Obama said in 2010. These words ring true in Rhode Island where HealthSource RI, affordable, accessible, and quality health-care choices for our businesses, families, and individuals, hit the ground running yesterday (Tuesday, October 1). We have been receiving attention throughout the nation for our cutting-edge program and sending a message that anybody who settles here will have access to reasonably priced choices.
The creation of a health insurance exchange in Rhode Island has been a vital priority, and in 2011, I issued Executive Order 11-09, which called for establishing the Rhode Island Health Benefits Exchange. The Order sought to develop "a transparent health insurance marketplace to help consumers and small businesses shop for, select, and enroll in affordable, high-quality, private health insurance products from a selection of easily comparable choices." To ensure the initiative's success, I appointed members to the Exchange Board, created in the Executive Order, and I asked Lieutenant Governor Roberts and Secretary Costantino of the Rhode Island Executive Office of Health and Human Services to join me in this effort in a leadership position. I recruited Christine Ferguson to oversee the creation of the health exchange. With her experience in State health policy, implementation of the Affordable Care Act, health care delivery system reform, Medicaid, healthcare financing and management, and many other areas, she was the ideal choice for leading HealthSource RI. Additionally, I named Dr. Kathleen C. Hittner, a widely respected medical professional, to lead the Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner.
These major steps in reform in our State have dramatically changed how Rhode Islanders obtain coverage. For too long our State has coped with economic issues that needed a solution to the rising numbers of uninsured, as well as increases in health care costs. HealthSource RI is addressing all of these challenges and will continue to well into the future.
Back in the 1990s, during the Clinton administration, Congress valiantly fought to enact reforms to our health care system. Then, Republicans embraced affordable care and put forth a plan that most agree is remarkably similar to today's Affordable Care Act. My father, Senator John Chafee, led the charge for these kinds of reforms with the introduction of the Health Equity and Access Reform Today Act of 1993. (Co-authored by Republican Congressman Jim Cooper, it had 19 Republican and two Democratic co-sponsors.) In Kaiser Health News, former Senator David Durenberger, a co-sponsor, recently spoke about my father's legislation as "a bill to provide comprehensive reform of the health care system of the United States." He described how it had a marked resemblance and contained many of the elements in the Affordable Care Act.
Today, with the launch of HealthSource RI, we are ensuring healthier Rhode Islanders and helping to improve our economy through affordable, accessible, and quality health care choices. In addition, we are giving special attention to providing strong and effective options geared toward our State's diverse small business community.
Lincoln D. Chafee