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Legislative Alert





Representatives Regunberg, East Side; Tanzi,Narragansett/So.Kingstown; Handy, Cranston; Amore, E. Providence; and Maldonado, Central Falls.

According to these RI state representatives, even with the new Obamacare Law, and even with an investment of $100 million into the RI Health Insurance Exchange, touted as the best in the country, "RI residents (note that they don't say citizens, but rather residents) face significant and increasingly overwhelming problems obtaining adequate affordable health insurance due to unnecessary costs and obstacles created by our current health insurance system.WOW!  Is that what former Lt. Governor Liz Roberts and her gang would say?


So with that back drop in mind, these representatives have drafted legislation that they believe will "remove the burden on RI businesses to secure health insurance for employees" by taking every healthcare dollar in the state - whether it be dollars currently funding private health insurance, or federal Medicaid or Medicare dollars, and of course, the state's share of Medicaid dollars - and pooling these dollars in a state trust fund. They wish to create a socialized system of healthcare in RI, known as the RI CHIP trust fund.  This fund would be managed by the director of a new government agency known as the RI Comprehensive Health Insurance Program (RI CHIP). 


This agency will establish the level of health benefits to be provided, the level of reimbursement to be provided, review budgets on a quarterly basis and "recommend adjustments in fee schedules needed to achieve budgetary targets and permit adequate access to care."  So what does that mean?  The minute it looks like funds are running low they will charge fees to maintain what they consider is adequate coverage for all "residents"?


And how about this little tidbit? The RI CHIP agency will "create other prohibitions regarding RI CHIP participation and procedures by which they will be enforced."  Are you starting to get the picture? 


Do you want your health care dictated and managed by the state that has brought you a $100 million insurance exchange that is not operating properly after years of planning and implementation, an exchange that never lived up to the hype and its original projection of 100,000 members, but rather was used as an expensive advertising mechanism for Medicaid and even at that, only garnered 28,000 members? 


How do you feel about the job losses that are fully anticipated in this legislation?  And we quote, "Private Insurance Companies, displaced employees - Re-education and job placement of persons employed in RI located enterprises who have lost their jobs as a result of this (legislation) shall be managed by the RI department of labor and training or an appropriate federal retraining program."  And, by the way, if you are a provider and don't want to participate in the RI CHIP, good luck. 


Is this the direction the new director of the Health Insurance Exchange will take?  Is this the direction Governor Raimondo will take?  Will Speaker Mattiello and Senate President Paiva Weed support such a socialistic approach to RI's healthcare in an effort to address the HealthSource RI problems?  This is not what RI residents bargained for when they voted in November.


Bill H 5387, known as the Comprehensive Health Insurance Plan, would be a boondoggle for RI government. The General Assembly currently has a very difficult decision to make regarding the exchange (HealthSource RI) - whether to keep the troubled product of your federal tax dollars and thereby add $20 million a year in maintenance costs to the state budget, or to let go and allow the federal government to take it over.  


A recent article highlighted the problems plaguing the state exchange.  "HealthSource RI has had an alarming number of errors within their own system", according to Wallack, the newly appointed executive director. This admission is made at a time when Senate President Paiva Weed is calling to keep the exchange under state control. With a projected budget requirement of $20 million, Paiva Weed wants the exchange to run on a smaller budget. 


With all of these known problems, it would seem odd to expect the exchange to run on a smaller budget than projected.  At least Speaker Mattiello acknowledged that the exchange is "not as good as we think it is, there are problems with the exchange. We have spent too much money on it, it's too big, it's too inefficient."  The BIG question is, will Speaker Mattiello and Senate President Paiva Weed see the socialization of RI's healthcare system as the answer to this problem?  You should contact both of them, along with the above representatives sponsoring the legislation, and let them know how you feel about the socialization of healthcare as the answer.



Note that the General Assembly is on Winter break for this week.




Many are eagerly awaiting Governor Raimondo's first budget. This budget

will be a good indication as to the direction our new Governor will take.Talk of jobs and the economy is cheap. We will need to see where she puts our money to work. An extension for reporting of the Governor's budget has been passed and it is now due March 12, 2015, a little less than a month from now.  It should be noted that she has been very quiet on the issue of RhodeMap RIOSTPA believes she needs to stand up and take a stance one way or the other on this very controversial element of the State Guide Plan, recently passed by the Division of Planning against a torrent of opposition.



Don't Tax Us For One Thing and Use It For Something Else - H 5390 was introduced to require that the state mandated tax that phone companies charge you for the cost of providing 911 emergency service actually be used to cover the cost of 911 emergency service. While it may seem counterintuitive that a law must be passed to make this so, OSTPA is glad to see that some representatives are looking out for taxpayers. Thank you to Representatives Lancia, Trillo, Morgan, Newberry and Filippi.


Real Ethics Reform - Why would Speaker Matteillo say that the public should blindly just trust their lawmakers?  As taxpayers, we want to trust our lawmakers, but we believe in an ethics commission that has the authority to take action when needed. Given the public perception that RI, both within and beyond our borders, is one of the most politically corrupt states, the only way to persuade businesses to consider RI is to ensure there will be a level playing field.  H 5374 provides for real Ethics Reform in RI.



Binding Arbitration and Perpetual Contract for Employees - H 5350 proposes the perennial binding arbitration that public unions are looking for, a process whereby no consideration is given to the ability of the city or town to pay, but rather, the arbiter is required to look at other municipalities and if they are paying higher wages, adjust accordingly. And, the party that appeals any decision and loses in court, will bear the costs not just of the trial, but will also be required to pay 8% interest.  This bill also provides for an indefinite continuation of contracts, overriding the statute that limits the contract to 3 years.


Line Item Veto - Only a handful of states do not have Line Item Veto for the Governor, of course, RI is one of them. The state needs greater balance of power between the executive and legislative branches. If you didn't sign the petition last week, please take this opportunity to sign and then pass it along to at least 5 people you know who want to improve state government.  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We look forward to resuming over review of the General Assembly session hearings next week.


If you have found our Weekly Legislative Alerts informative & the website a good source of information, please consider a donation to help us maintain these tools.  RI citizens have very little access to the candid information the OSTPA provides & even less access to a platform that connects the dots from the legislators, to the legislation, to the resulting impact on the RI economy




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