Obamacare consumer protections enacted in state law

THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY passed legislation in June that will maintain many of the protections of the federal Affordable Care Act for Rhode Islanders, even if Obamacare was ever weakened or repealed. / PBN FILE PHOTO/MICHAEL SALERNO

PROVIDENCE – State lawmakers have taken steps to enact many of the consumer protections of the federal Affordable Care Act in state law, in case the federal rules are weakened or repealed in the future.

The new law, passed by the General Assembly on June 14 and signed by Gov. Daniel J. McKee on June 21, took effect immediately and features prohibitions on insurers denying coverage due to preexisting conditions or refusing to issue or renew an individual’s policy, protecting them even if they are sick, according to a General Assembly news release.

The measure also protects the requirement that preventive services must be covered with no cost-sharing and that insurance policies cover 10 health benefits, including ambulatory patient services, emergency services, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, mental health and substance use disorder services, rehabilitative services and devices, laboratory services, chronic disease management and pediatric services.

The legislation was sponsored by Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller, D-Cranston, and Rep. June S. Speakman, D-Bristol.

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“Just as we saw last year when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, enacting protection at the state level is the only way to truly guarantee the rights and protections we want Rhode Islanders to have,” Miller said. “We [wanted to] do the same with the rights afforded by the Affordable Care Act, which has been a target since it passed in 2010, and which remains the subject of litigation concerning preventive care requirements. We want to ensure that Rhode Islanders have these critical protections, so we need to put them into Rhode Island law.”

The news release said the law does not exceed the requirements of the federal ACA – otherwise known as Obamacare – or require any new state funding or increase premium costs from current levels. It does not change Medicaid and does not have any new impacts on businesses.

“This bill won’t make any changes to anyone’s health care, which is exactly the point,” Speakman said. “By enacting these protections at the state level, we are making sure that the Rhode Islanders’ health care access is safe, no matter what may happen at the federal level at any point in the future.”

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