Rep. Aaron Regunberg and Sen. Jeanine Calkin have introduced legislation to provide all Rhode Islanders access to affordable health care by establishing a single-payer health care system in the state.
The legislation seeks to protect Rhode Islanders from federal attacks on the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid and repair problems with the current health insurance system. The sponsors are also introducing resolutions asking Rhode Island’s federal legislators to support national single payer legislation.
“Currently, 47,000 Rhode Islanders are uninsured and many more are underinsured. Those who are fully insured face limited-provider networks and skyrocketing premiums, co-pays and deductibles. 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,” said Senator Calkin (D-Dist. 30, Warwick) in a statement.
The sponsors and supporters say overhauling the way health care is delivered and paid for will have a profound positive impact on both health care itself and the economy overall.
“This legislation is about guaranteeing healthcare 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,” said Representative Regunberg (D-Dist. 4, Providence).
The legislation proposes a “Medicare-for-all”-style single-payer program that would replace multiple “middlemen” insurers with a single coverage provider, the Rhode Island Comprehensive Health Insurance Program (RICHIP).
Based on a Rhode Island-focused economic analysis by Professor Gerald Friedman, an economist and health care policy expert at University of Massachusetts Amherst, single payer would allow a majority of Rhode Islanders to pay less for health insurance and all Rhode Islanders to have access to comprehensive coverage that includes dental, vision, and mental health care as well as lower-priced prescription drugs.
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, co-pays, 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.
“Canada’s single-payer program began in 1962, in the province of Saskatchewan, which is approximately the same size as Rhode Island. It was so successful, it became a national program within 10 years and continues to be successful today, with better outcomes and lower costs than the U.S.,” said Dr. J. Mark Ryan, chairman of the Rhode Island chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program. “Support for single payer extends across the state and includes businesses, unions and community organizations. Rhode Island can lead the way to a better health care system in the United States.”
At a news conference today, the bills were supported by business leaders, health care professionals, patients and community leaders.
“The current climate in Washington, D.C., has Americans very concerned about the future of our health care. Last year, over 700,000 bankruptcies were filed because of medical bills. Our maternal and childhood mortality rates are among the worst among developed countries. Yet we spend about twice as much money, per capita, on our health care system,” said Daniela Abbott, a small-business owner and chairperson of Rhode Island Healthcare Access & Affordability Partnership (rihealthcare.org), a nonprofit organization recently formed to advocate for single-payer health care. “The threat of losing health insurance and the fear of unaffordable medical bills – for ourselves and our families – is one of the biggest deterrents to would-be entrepreneurs and small business owners.”