Ferguson: Exchange committed to small businesses

By Harold Ambler
PBN Staff Writer

There’s plenty to like about the state’s new health-benefits exchange, HealthSource RI Executive Director Christine Ferguson told approximately 300 business owners, health care providers and insurance professionals at a Feb. 27 health care summit co-sponsored by Providence Business News. More

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HEALTH CARE

Ferguson: Exchange committed to small businesses

PBN PHOTO/MICHAEL SKORSKI
INTERESTED PARTIES: The health care summit at the Crowne Plaza Providence-Warwick tackled several topics and attracted professionals from the health and insurance fields, as well as business owners. Page 16. Story 2 Photo Credit 2 = PBN PHOTO/MICHAEL SKORSKI

By Harold Ambler
PBN Staff Writer

Posted 3/10/14

There’s plenty to like about the state’s new health-benefits exchange, HealthSource RI Executive Director Christine Ferguson told approximately 300 business owners, health care providers and insurance professionals at a Feb. 27 health care summit co-sponsored by Providence Business News.

But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be working better, she acknowledged.

Ferguson admitted, for example, that service at a contact center set up to help people enroll in the exchange has not always been optimal, despite what she described as “an amazing team … guiding people through the glitches that we thought would happen.

“We are not anywhere close to what I would like to be for customer service,” Ferguson said during the first of two panel discussions at the Crowne Plaza Providence-Warwick.

Asked how many enrollees were previously uninsured, Ferguson said she didn’t have hard data but believes “a good percentage of the people who signed up are people who were uninsured before.

“We have a question in the application that asks in a less direct way than I would like,” she explained. “We’ll have more data after the March 31 deadline, unless we have an executive order from the White House that changes that, and we’ve had quite a few of those.” The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services acknowledged it also failed to include a question in its enrollment process about whether enrollees previously had health care.

Ferguson’s primary message, however, was that the exchange is doing better than most others across the country, and the people behind it remain committed to improving.

“By all objective standards that are being used by the national media and by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, we’re one of the top two exchanges in the country,” she said.

The first panel discussion focused on the state exchange and the Affordable Care Act. On the panel were Ferguson; Sam Slade, the leader of the health benefits group at USI Insurance; Dr. Kathleen Hittner, the Rhode Island health insurance commissioner; James Raiola, a certified financial planner and insurance broker and Stephen Boyle, president of the Cranston Chamber of Commerce and co-creator of the new HealthSource RI small-business hotline.

Hittner agreed that the state’s exchange and those running it deserve far more praise than criticism.

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