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Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Selects Rhode Island to Participate in Flagship Program to Expand Coverage

Providence, RI – Building on more than 40 years of commitment to expanding health insurance coverage, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has unveiled a plan to provide Rhode Island, as well as nine other states nationwide, with essential resources to implement key health insurance coverage provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). RWJF will support technical assistance, research and consumer engagement to help these 10 states most effectively expand and increase coverage. RWJF will work with selected states to ensure that the lessons from these states are synthesized and made available to all policy-makers across the U.S.

Experts estimate that the ACA will expand health insurance coverage to people in Rhode Island. However, much of the success in expanding the number of Americans with health insurance coverage will depend on the state’s ability to implement effectively the coverage provisions in ACA.

“Expanding and improving access to health care, and providing stable, affordable coverage is now in the hands of the states,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “In the coming months, state health leaders will form strategies and consider options that best meet their unique coverage needs. It’s important that these ideas be shared, so that states can learn from each other. RWJF has a long history of effectively disseminating information, and we’re pleased to serve as an unbiased, nonpartisan convener to help different states share successful ideas that can be replicated, and warn of pitfalls that can be avoided.”

RWJF’s goal is to for 95 percent of Americans to have health coverage by 2020. To accomplish this, RWJF is launching a series of efforts to help states get the information and expertise they need to effectively implement reforms.

RWJF will invest in technical assistance, research and monitoring, and consumer engagement to support efforts to maximize coverage gains made possible by the ACA. Technical assistance to states will be provided through the newly created State Health Reform Assistance Network (the State Network). Focusing initially in 10 states, technical assistance offered through the State Network will focus on setting up insurance exchanges, instituting insurance market reforms, expanding Medicaid to newly eligible populations, streamlining eligibility and enrollment systems, and using data to drive decisions. Technical assistance will be provided by leading national organizations and experts in the field of health policy and coverage. The State Network is directed by Heather Howard, J.D., the former New Jersey commissioner of Health and Senior Services, and is based at the Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.

In addition to providing technical assistance to states, the Foundation will work with the researchers and analysts to monitor and analyze the progress of state coverage gains. Recognizing that consumers’ voices will be critical to successful implementation, the Foundation will support consumer engagement in the policy development process in these 10 states through an initiative led by Boston-based Community Catalyst.

Rhode Island was selected through a competitive process to ensure that, as a whole, participating states represent diversity in terms of geography, demographics, coverage statistics and progress-to-date on implementation of the reform law’s provisions. In addition to Rhode Island, others selected include Alabama, Colorado, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Virginia.

“I applaud the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for its leadership in this area and its support of our efforts to ensure that all Rhode Islanders have access to quality, affordable health care,” Governor Chafee said. “We are determined to make Rhode Island a national model in terms of successfully implementing these reforms, and this assistance will help us achieve that goal.”

"We are honored to be selected by RWJF as one of only 10 states to receive this invaluable technical assistance," said Lt. Governor Roberts, Chair of the RI Healthcare Reform Commission. "As we continue to be a national leader in federal health reform implementation, Rhode Island families and businesses will share in the benefits of expanded access to healthcare coverage, with improved health and with care that's delivered more efficiently and affordably," said Roberts.

Recognizing that no one program will achieve the Foundation’s ambitious goal of ensuring coverage for 95 percent of all Americans, RWJF will continue its existing support for programs that provide leadership development for Medicaid directors, support investigator-initiated research on key health care issues and help states reform their eligibility and enrollment systems to ensure that eligible children and families are enrolled in available health insurance programs. The Foundation is also proud to support a new effort, Enroll America, which will bring together leaders from the public and private sectors to ensure that best practices for enrollment are gathered and shared as states work to enroll children and adults as they become eligible for new insurance options.

RWJF and the National Academy for State Health Policy have also initiated a unique online resource, (www.statereforum.org), that will help policy-makers, state health officials and the broader health policy community across all states explore opportunities created by the ACA and tackle implementation challenges. The forum connects state health officials looking for information with experts, by allowing users to:

*Engage in real-time discussions with others on a variety of implementation issues;

*Quickly and clearly assess where different states are in their individual efforts to implement reforms;

*Receive and comment on expert analysis; and

*Search, access and share information that cuts across programmatic, departmental and organizational boundaries in one, convenient location.

***The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For nearly 40 years, the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime.***

Related links

Department or agency: Office of the Governor

Online: http://www.governor.ri.gov

Release date: 05-11-2011

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