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Rhode Island Health Benefits Exchange Director Testifies before U.S. Senate Finance Committee

Participates in Progress-Report Hearing on Health Exchanges

Washington, D.C. - Today, Rhode Island Health Benefits Exchange Director Christine Ferguson testified in Washington, DC in a Senate Finance Committee hearing billed as a Progress Report on Health Insurance Exchanges. She was asked to testify by the Senate Finance Committee representing "state-based exchanges," because Rhode Island has chosen to build its own Exchange rather than use the federal mechanism.

Ferguson stated, "Our Exchange will serve two important purposes. First, it will provide a robust marketplace for all Rhode Islanders to identify health insurance coverage options and, for those eligible, to purchase coverage. Second, the Exchange will negotiate for high-quality affordable insurance options on behalf of small employers and individuals.

"Our Exchange stands on Rhode Island's strong history of health care advances and the support that we have received from our Congressional Delegation. We thank Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse for their tremendous investment of time and energy in ensuring that Rhode Island is ready to implement the Affordable Care Act. Thanks also to Congressmen James Langevin and David Cicilline for their unwavering support. And Governor Lincoln Chafee and Lt. Governor Elizabeth Roberts, Chair of the state's Health Care Reform Commission, have diligently coordinated all of the early work of our Exchange, with the Lt. Governor's office continuing to lead on broad health reform efforts."

Also testifying at the hearing were Gary Cohen, Deputy Administrator and Director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO) at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; Bettina Tweardy Riveros, Advisor to the Delaware Governor and Chair of the Delaware Health Care Commission; and Don Hughes, Advisor to the Office of the Governor of Arizona.

Ferguson added, "Why did we decide to create a state-based exchange? As we collected input from stakeholders, we heard again and again that high costs and unpredictable annual increases have made health insurance coverage unsustainable for most employers and out of reach for many individuals – from entrepreneurs taking the plunge into new ventures to those who are working multiple jobs. We want to build an Exchange by Rhode Islanders, for Rhode Islanders – one that benefits from and contributes to the work of other states but is created to meet Rhode Islanders' needs.

"By purchasing for so many Rhode Islanders together, our Exchange will give new power to small employers and individuals in the health insurance marketplace, negotiating with health insurance carriers on their behalf. The Exchange also has the potential to improve the business climate in Rhode Island as we all work together to harness its possibilities."

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