Updated March 26 at 7:54am

Five Questions With: U.S. Rep. James R. Langevin

Congressman talks about the relative success of Rhode Island’s health insurance exchange.

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Five Questions With: U.S. Rep. James R. Langevin


U.S. Rep. James R. Langevin has been serving Rhode Island's second district in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2000. The first quadriplegic to serve in the House, he is a committed supporter of stem cell research and has been an outspoken proponent of universal health care. In 2004, he introduced the American Health Benefits Program, which used the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program as a model to offer affordable health care to all.

PBN: Has the relative success of the Rhode Island health care insurance exchange been something that your colleagues have talked to you about in Washington?

LANGEVIN:Yes. HealthSource RI, Rhode Island’s health insurance exchange and online portal, continues to serve as a model for its state-driven, integrated approach. A great deal of media attention has focused on problems affecting the federal website, but Rhode Islanders should be aware that HealthSource RI is a separate entity from the federally run exchange and has been largely unaffected by those problems. In fact, Rhode Island has been cited as one of three states that exceeded enrollment targets for November.

PBN: Have you signed up for healthcare using HealthSourceRI.com – and what was your experience and what decisions did you make?

LANGEVIN: Federal regulations require members of Congress and their staff to enroll in the Washington, D.C.-based insurance exchange, called DC Health Link. Although I was disappointed I could not purchase coverage through Rhode Island’s insurance exchange, I enrolled in a plan through DC Health Link on December 5th, and I look forward to my new coverage beginning on January 1st.

PBN: What does the Affordable Care Act mean to you as someone with a disability, and what do you think it means more generally for other people with disabilities?

LANGEVIN: The Affordable Care Act eliminates annual and lifetime insurance limits that have resulted in bankruptcy for countless individuals living with chronic, disabling conditions. It also prohibits insurance companies from discriminating against people based on pre-existing conditions. Disabilities don’t discriminate; why should insurers? These are just three examples of groundbreaking reforms included in the ACA that will increase access to affordable coverage and lead to greater empowerment and inclusion for people with disabilities.

PBN: How concerned are you by the relatively low number of young people buying healthcare through the state and federal exchanges?

LANGEVIN: It is not surprising that a large portion of initial enrollees are more advanced in age, since they already tend to be larger consumers of healthcare. However, the enrollment of younger and healthier people will prove critical to keeping health care costs low and premiums affordable, and I’m optimistic that these folks will begin purchasing coverage as more learn about their options.

PBN: When do you think is the earliest that people will be able to fairly judge the transition to the new insurance market mandated by the ACA?

LANGEVIN: Transforming the country’s health care system is no quick or easy task, and there will be necessary course corrections along the way. The upcoming year will give us a preliminary indication of the challenges and opportunities ahead, but this is a long-term endeavor that will take time to get right.


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