CRANSTON – CVS Health Corp. and HealthSource RI have partnered to offer the opportunity to pay health insurance bills at the company’s pharmacy retail locations, charting a path toward reaching the 4 percent of Rhode Islanders who’ve yet to enter the market because they lack bank accounts.
Gov. Gina M. Raimondo, HealthSource RI Director Zachary W. Sherman and CVS Health Executive Vice President Lisa Bisaccia announced the bill pay partnership, the first of its kind, Tuesday morning at the CVS Pharmacy 681 Reservoir Ave. location in Cranston.
About 1,000 people have taken advantage of the counter payment option so far, said Kyrie Perry, HSRI spokeswoman. Providing the option is part of their continuing strategy to reach the state’s remaining uninsured residents, she said.
Though the state-based Affordable Care Act health insurance exchange has enjoyed a successful enrollment of 96 percent of the state’s residents, they’ve also been studying the small percentage – approximately 43,000 – of Rhode Islanders who continue to abstain from purchasing health insurance.
“A number of the four percent we know has a barrier to access to care because they don’t have a bank account,” Perry said. Many of those people live on lower-incomes, she said, which may be part of the reason behind their lack of bank accounts. She said there’s anecdotal evidence that people with lower-incomes don’t use banks.
Now, they won’t need one to purchase health insurance, and can pay at one of CVS Health’s 63 RI locations using cash, check or credit card.
HealthSource RI health insurance bills now include a barcode that can be scanned at the CVS Pharmacy checkout. Customers can then pay their bill the way they pay for any other purchase at CVS Pharmacy. There’s even the option of splitting their monthly bill into smaller, manageable payments.
When they began searching for a workaround to provide people without bank accounts a way to purchase health care insurance, CVS seemed a natural choice, Perry said, with their health-oriented retail locations throughout the state. Rhode Islanders will also be able to pay their bills at any of CVS Health’s 9,700 locations nationally.
The payment option won’t only hurdle the bank account barrier to care, it will also save customers a trip to pay their bills, since many will already be in a CVS location regularly for other reasons. It will also save them the expense of purchasing money orders.
Since HSRI signed up the first 1,000 customers for the new bill pay program, Perry said, they have noticed a reduction in the number of people paying for health insurance at HSRI’s walk-in locations, and fewer of those have been with money orders.
According to the results of email and phone interviews of people signed up so far, nine out of 10 said the program made payment easier, and that they would be more likely to pay their bill on time as a result, Perry said.
“At HealthSource RI our goal is to make it as easy as possible for Rhode Islanders to get and stay insured. We know that residents lose coverage every month because they’ve missed a bill payment or paid too late. This innovative partnership with CVS Health will increase the likelihood that our customers stay covered by enabling customers to pay their bills where they want, when they want and with the payment method that’s right for them,” Sherman said.
Perry said the program was possible by virtue of HSRI’s ability to bill directly for premiums, allowing them to handle the entire customer experience for people in a way only a handful of state-base exchanges are able. Most state-based exchanges and federal exchanges require purchasing health care and then paying the provider directly, so although CVS has locations nation-wide, HSRI’s program isn’t likely to be duplicated outside the Ocean State.
Rob Borkowski is a PBN staff writer. Email him at Borkowski@PBN.com.