Calkin-Regunberg bill would establish first state single-payer health care system

SEN. JEANINE CALKIN, D-Warwick, and Rep. Aaron Regunberg, D-Providence, recently announced their introduction of legislation to provide all Rhode Islanders access to affordable health care by establishing a single-payer health care system in the state. / COURTESY JACK NEWTON
SEN. JEANINE CALKIN, D-Warwick, and Rep. Aaron Regunberg, D-Providence, recently announced their introduction of legislation to provide all Rhode Islanders access to affordable health care by establishing a single-payer health care system in the state. / COURTESY JACK NEWTON

PROVIDENCE – A bill co-sponsored by Sen. Jeanine Calkin, D-Warwick, and Rep. Aaron Regunberg, D-Providence, would establish a “Medicare-for-all” single-payer program that would replace multiple “middlemen” insurers with a single coverage provider, the Rhode Island Comprehensive Health Insurance Program.

The program would be funded by consolidating government and private payments to multiple insurance carriers into a more economical and efficient single-payer program and would replace high health insurance premiums, copays, deductibles and costs due to caps with lower progressive taxes.

If approved, the legislation would make Rhode Island the first state in the nation with a single-payer health care system.

Under the plan, based on an analysis by Gerald Friedman, a professor, economist and health care policy expert at University of Massachusetts Amherst, a majority of Rhode Islanders would pay less for health insurance. All Rhode Islanders would have access to comprehensive coverage that includes dental, vision and mental health care as well as lower-priced prescription drugs.

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“This legislation is about guaranteeing health care as a fundamental human right for every Rhode Islander, and creating a more efficient system for us all. We know that rising health care costs hurt our families, overburden employers and take up a disproportionate share of state spending. Single-payer creates savings at every level, reduces costs for businesses and ensures all our neighbors have the coverage they need,” Regunberg said.

The sponsors say overhauling the way health care is delivered and paid for will have a profound, positive impact on both health care and the economy.

“Currently, 47,000 Rhode Islanders are uninsured and many more are underinsured. Those who are fully insured face limited-provider networks and skyrocketing premiums, copays and deductibles,” said Calkin. “A single-payer system will ensure that every Rhode Islander has access to the health care they need when they need it. It will allow health care providers to focus on taking care of patients and not the administration required for insurance reimbursement. And it provides patients the security of knowing they can go to the doctor or hospital without getting hit with unexpected bills or bankruptcy when those costs pile up.”

Rob Borkowski is a PBN staff writer. Email him at Borkowski@PBN.com.