Make group health benefits available to independent workers

"I will present legislation that will make group health benefits available to independent workers, as they are in New York."


Chafee campaign policy paper, The First One Hundred Days, Plan for Jobs

Subjects: Economy, Health Care, Jobs


Chafee proposal for independent workers submitted, but under study

Updated: Tuesday, July 17th, 2012 | By C. Eugene Emery Jr.

During his election campaign in 2010, Governor Lincoln Chafee said he wanted to make life easier for independent workers. We gave him a "Promise Broken" on his pledge to prefile legislation to make Rhode Island the most independent worker-friendly state in the United States because he didn't file any bills on the issue before the General Assembly session began.

He made a related pledge to submit legislation to make group health benefits available to the self-employed, part of his plan to generate jobs in the first 100 days of his tenure. He didn't meet the 100-day deadline, but he has made an effort to change the current system.

In March, Chafee introduced a 38-page bill, H-7892, designed to have state law conform to key provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act, often known as Obamacare. A Senate version, S-2888, was introduced in April.

In addition to barring insurance companies from denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions and requiring them to provide coverage to the children of policy holders until age 26, the bill ordered the insurance commissioner to adopt rules to cover individuals, such as independent workers, under health insurance plans that cover employees who work for small companies.

According to a briefing paper on the legislation, Massachusetts and New York have already combined the two risk groups. By doing the same in Rhode Island, Chafee's proposal would allow individuals to purchase such insurance from Blue Cross, United Healthcare and Tufts Health Plan. Currently, it is only available from Blue Cross.

The Chafee plan didn't pass. Instead, the legislature amended both bills to order the issues to be studied by its Permanent Joint Committee on Health Care Oversight. A report is due Oct. 1.

In summary, Chafee promised to "present legislation that will make group health benefits available to independent workers." He did that, as part of the effort to bring state law into compliance with the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

It hasn't been enacted, but he didn't promise to put it into law. The act of submission is enough to earn a Promise Kept.

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RILIN.state.RI.US, "S-2888: An Act Relating to Insurance -- Accident and Sickness Insurance Policies," accessed July 12, 2012, "Overview of the Proposed Market Reform Bill H 7892, An Act Relating to Insurance - Accident and Sickness Policies," March 21, 2012, accessed July 12, 2012

RILIN.state.RI.US, "S-2888 Substitute A: An Act Relating to Insurance -- Accident and Sickness Insurance Policies," accessed July 12, 2012

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