health care

Chamber panel on benefits exchange voices unity

Posted 4/30/12

PROVIDENCE – A Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce forum, held on April 24, focused on implementation the R.I. Health Benefits Exchange and featured a panel that included the three leaders of commercial health insurers in Rhode Island.

The panel members all voiced support for the individual mandate, regardless of what happens in the U.S. Supreme Court.

When asked directly by Chamber President Laurie White, who served as moderator, whether they supported the individual mandate, the panel members agreed that it was a desirable policy.

The panel included Peter Andruszkiewicz, president and CEO of Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island; Stephen J. Farrell, CEO of UnitedHealthcare of New England, James Roosevelt Jr., president and CEO of Tufts Health Plan, and Domenic Delmonico, senior vice president of Managed Care Contracting and Network Development, Care New England; and Stephen Zubiago, partner, Nixon Peabody LLP.

The forum attracted more than 100 businessmen and women to listen to a discussion of the new marketplace known as the R.I. Health Benefits Exchange, established by executive order by Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee in September 2011 and supported with more than $58 million in federal funds.

Jennifer Wood, chief of staff for Lt. Gov. Elizabeth H. Roberts, announced at the gathering that a new request for proposals had been issued to design the IT infrastructure for the new exchange, which will include creating a new platform for Medicaid enrollment. In addition, Wood announced that a new director for the exchange is expected to be named within the next month.

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The insurers like the mandate which will create thousands of new customers (31 million nationally) but are less enthusiastic about the exchange, which could consolidate those customers and groups into entities with more pricing leverage. Brokers in particular are threatened by possible irrelevance and even disintermediation by the exchange.

All stakeholders need to focus on improving their own value proposition to assure their role in a system badly in need of streamlining reform. Fighting reform now is counter-productive and futile.

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