Promoting Quality, Affordable Health Care
Rhode Islanders deserve high-quality, affordable health care. The Affordable Care Act expanded access to health insurance for millions of Americans, but there is still working to be done to lower costs and improve results. I work to protect and strengthen Medicare and Medicaid to ensure the benefits Rhode Islanders count on will be there when they need them.
Passage of the Affordable Care Act marked a watershed moment for improving access to health care. I will continue to oppose cynical attempts to repeal or weaken this landmark legislation and work to help more Americans get secure, reliable coverage. Here are some of the ways that the Affordable Care Act is working for Rhode Island:
- More Rhode Islanders than ever are benefiting from quality, affordable health insurance coverage. Since 2012, the uninsured rate in Rhode Island has dropped from 11 percent to below 5 percent, a record low.
- Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies can no longer deny coverage because of preexisting conditions, limit the amount of care patients receive in a year, or charge women higher premiums than men for the same health coverage.
- Rhode Island's state-based health insurance exchange, HealthSource RI, allows Rhode Islanders to shop for affordable health insurance coverage that best meets their needs. In 2016, the Affordable Care Act reduced or eliminated premiums for 83 percent of HealthSource RI customers. You can find more information about enrolling in coverage through HealthSource RI here.
- There is also more we can to strengthen the Affordable Care Act. I introduced a bill that would add a public option to the individual market to guarantee that Americans shopping on the exchanges have access to affordable, high-quality health insurance. I also support the Medicare for All Act and the Medicare at 55 Act, both of which would provide health insurance to more Americans through the Medicare program.
For generations, we have made a promise to American workers that they will be able to count on Medicare to relieve the financial burdens of health care in their retirement years. To protect this promise, I'm fighting for reforms to Medicare that would bring down costs and improve care, while protecting benefits for our seniors.
- I helped lead the successful fight to close the Medicare Part D prescription drug "doughnut hole," which left seniors without coverage for a large portion of their prescription drug costs. As a result of this reform, thousands of Rhode Islanders have saved more than $76 million since 2010.
- We have to do more to lower drug prices. I support allowing Medicare to directly negotiate drug prices with manufacturers and eliminating a sweetheart deal for brand-name drug manufacturers that lets them charge millions of low-income Medicare customers higher prices.
- I fought to pass the Affordable Care Act, which provides Medicare beneficiaries access to free preventive services, like flu shots and mammograms. As a result, in 2016, over 62,000 Rhode Island Medicare beneficiaries received a free annual wellness visit.
- My bill would eliminate barriers that make it harder for some Medicare patients to get the personalized care they need toward the end of their lives.
Millions of Americans suffer from mental illness and substance abuse each year, and too many lack access to treatment. I am working to ensure that patients have the mental health care coverage they need and to support state and local efforts to combat the opioid drug epidemic.
- I worked across the aisle to write and pass the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which views addiction for what it is - a disease in need of treatment. The law gives those on the front lines of the ongoing opioid abuse epidemic better tools to prevent drug abuse, treat addiction, reduce overdose deaths, and support those in recovery.
- To build our pediatric mental health workforce, I successfully advocated for changes that allow children's hospitals to receive funding to train the next generation of doctors. Bradley Hospital in East Providence qualified for new federal funding thanks to these reforms.
- I drafted legislation that would provide financial incentives to help behavioral health providers, like psychologists and psychiatric hospitals, adopt technology to better coordinate patient care.
- To help end discrimination against people suffering from mental illness, I advocated for the landmark Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, which requires insurance plans to provide coverage for mental health and substance abuse treatment comparable to that for physical health care.
I strongly support federal investments in medical research. This funding benefits Rhode Island's first-rate academic and research institutions, bolsters our local economy, and advances life-saving medical research.
- To ensure that medical research keeps pace with demand, I support legislation to create a research trust fund to sustain investments in the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other federal agencies that conduct medical research.
- I drafted legislation to improve the National Institutes of Health's strategic planning to address the deadliest cancers, like pancreatic cancer, for which little progress has been made in detection and treatment. In 2012, President Obama signed my bill into law.
- I also authored bipartisan legislation to help identify promising breakthroughs in breast cancer research and to encourage collaboration between the public and private sectors to find a cure.
The Affordable Care Act provided many tools to drive down costs and improve the quality of patient care, but there is more work to be done. I'm working with our state's health care professionals to support Rhode Island's role as a national leader in improving the delivery of care.
- I drafted the Patient Safety Improvement Act to improve safety in our health care system by preventing infections in hospitals and addressing the overuse of antibiotics. These steps would save lives and money.
- I've been working with health care leaders in Rhode Island to make sure our health care system pays for care that is high quality and high value. In 2014, I convened a working group with Rhode Island Foundation President Neil Steinberg, which sent recommendations for lowering health care spending and improving quality to Governor Gina Raimondo.
- I support the Children's Health Insurance Program, which provides secure, high-quality coverage for more than 30,000 children in Rhode Island, and our community health centers, which have received tens of million of dollars to expand high-quality primary care and dental services, extend their hours, and build new clinics under the Affordable Care Act.
If your employer doesn't offer affordable health insurance, you may be eligible to sign up for coverage through Rhode Island's state-based health insurance marketplace, HealthSource RI. The next open enrollment period begins on November 1, 2019. Outside the open enrollment period, you can enroll if you have a major life event, such as losing your health insurance, getting married, or having a child.
Customers can begin or renew their coverage online at HealthSourceRI.com or over the phone at 1-855-840-4774. To check if you are eligible for financial assistance, you can visit HealthSource RI's savings calculator.
If you need help enrolling in coverage, my staff would be happy to assist you. You can contact my office at 401-453-5294.