Even if they disagree about the federal health care law that created it, Rhode Island’s major candidates for governor all want to see the state’s health-benefits exchange become a moneymaker.
A resounding success compared to most of its counterparts in other states, HealthSource RI still faces an uncertain future because of its ongoing cost and unidentified future funding source.
Like their counterparts in Washington, the five major Ocean State gubernatorial candidates are split along party lines about whether the state should consider abandoning Healthsource instead of having to pay for it when federal funding runs out.
The three leading Democratic candidates – Clay Pell, General Treasurer Gina M. Raimondo and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras – all want to maintain the Rhode Island exchange, even if it means dipping into state coffers to pay for it.
The two Republicans – Barrington businessman Ken Block and Cranston Mayor Allan Fung – have no preference for keeping the existing organization going as is and would support switching to the federal exchange if current HealthSource costs cannot be offset or lowered.
But the first preference for all five candidates would be for Rhode Island to leverage the technical success of HealthSource into a funding stream to pay for its future insurance-exchange needs.
The most obvious avenue to monetize HealthSource would be to license some part of its technology, or sell exchange services, to one of the states still struggling with their insurance portals.
Unfortunately that might not be as easy as it sounds.
Twenty-six states are using the federally run insurance exchange and among those with failing state-run exchanges, switching to a national system is often seen as a safer and cheaper alternative than buying a new system from a neighbor.
But even if another state were interested in licensing HealthSource software, Rhode Island may not be able to sell it because the code was paid for with federal dollars.
That’s what happened next door in Connecticut, site of another successful state exchange, which shared its technology with Maryland to replace that state’s failing system.
Although Connecticut has been aggressively marketing its health-exchange system and expertise, Maryland adopted the Connecticut code and then hired Connecticut’s consultant, Deloitte, to implement it, according to the Washington Post.