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Governor Chafee Announces $5.2 Million Federal Grant to Aid State in Establishing Rhode Island Health Insurance Exchange

Providence, RI – Governor Chafee announced today that Rhode Island has been awarded a $5.2-million grant from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to aid in the establishment of Rhode Island’s health insurance exchange.

The Level I Exchange Establishment Grant to Rhode Island – one of only three awarded by HHS – will be administered through the Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner, and will provide considerable resources to aid in the task of creating the mechanisms, technological systems, and consumer support that are imperative to establishing the state’s health insurance marketplace.

“This is great news for Rhode Island,” said Governor Chafee. “Our goal is to make our state a national leader in implementing federal healthcare reform in a way that is advantageous for Rhode Islanders – and this significant grant will help us do that. I look forward to working with Lt. Governor Roberts, Secretary Costantino, and Commissioner Koller to ensure that we use this grant wisely and effectively.”

“The number one priority of the Health Reform Commission this year is to establish a Health Insurance Exchange in Rhode Island,” said Lt. Governor Roberts, Chair of the RI Healthcare Reform Commission. “This federal grant acknowledges and rewards the progress we are making in achieving that goal, toward expanding access to affordable, high quality healthcare coverage for all Rhode Islanders.”

“This grant is the result of government departments and agencies working together to achieve a positive outcome,” OHHS Secretary Steven M. Costantino said. “These collaborative and coordinated efforts have put Rhode Island in the perfect situation to provide a user-friendly and informative health insurance exchange for our residents and businesses.”

Health Insurance Exchanges are envisioned as new market places for health insurance. Under the Affordable Care Act, each state is to establish one or more Health Insurance Exchanges, or delegate the activity to the Federal Government. Rhode Island plans to use these funds to hire initial Exchange staff and develop detailed purchasing specifications for information technology, consumer assistance and business operations services which the Exchange will purchase.

“The Exchange will allow people and businesses to make informed health insurance purchasing decisions, and bring greater transparency to this complicated process,” said Health Insurance Commissioner Christopher F. Koller. “But it is a massive undertaking; these federal funds will allow us to develop clear specifications and operational plans for all the systems needed to make this happen.”

In January, Governor Chafee established by Executive Order the RI Healthcare Reform Commission, chaired by Lt. Governor Elizabeth Roberts, to address implementation of health reform under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Commission’s Health Insurance Exchange Subcommittee has been planning for the establishment of the state’s exchange marketplace. Supporting this subcommittee, an interagency work group staffed by the Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner (OHIC), the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (OHHS), and the Department of Health (HEALTH) has been working to design and develop a state-based health insurance exchange.

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