Thank you all for coming to this celebration of the Second Anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. I would like to acknowledge and thank Geoff Gaunt and Joe Gallo for hosting us here today.
Also with us is Senator Whitehouse, Chris Albert for Senator Reed (who is out of town), Kathleen Otte from the US Administration on Aging, Steven Costantino, Chris Koller, and Bill Newkirk, RISD Dean of Architecture and Design.
Our Community Partners also in attendance: Amy Black from the Rhode Island Health Coverage Project, an Initiative of The Economic Progress Institute and Rhode Island Kids Count. Kate Brock from Ocean State Action joins us. Members of the Rhode Island Healthcare Reform Commission, and Members Special guests- Jane Natale and Brianne Day
It’s a pleasure to be here with you today to celebrate the two-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act.
As Chair of the Rhode Island Healthcare Reform Commission, I oversee the implementation of national health reform in Rhode Island.
I believe we must “get it right” for Rhode Island by achieving improved health for Rhode Islanders thru universal access to high quality, health care; delivering care in new and different ways; and making it sustainable and affordable for Rhode Island families and businesses.
We are making incredible progress, especially in our Health Benefits Exchange planning that leads the country.
Our successes can be attributed, in great part, to the cooperation and collaboration by everyone who has been involved in this process. This includes leadership displayed by the Governor and his office, as well as in the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, the Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner, and the Department of Administration. In the healthcare industry, we are joined by healthcare leaders, professionals and patient advocates. At the federal level we have found valuable partners in our Congressional delegation, especially Senator Whitehouse. And we have enjoyed a productive partnership with our regional office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, led by Christie Hager in Region I, based in Boston and covering Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. Christie couldn’t be here today. In her place, Kathleen Otte, Tri-Regional Administrator, US Administration on Aging, is here and we are delighted to have her with us for this celebration.
We have at this moment a historic opportunity to transform Rhode Island’s health care system, to bring coordinated and comprehensive healthcare to all Rhode Islanders.
The Affordable Care Act is already making a difference for the people of Rhode Island by providing new coverage options for young adults; making prescription drugs affordable for seniors; and covering two preventive services with no deductible or co-pay. It also gives the Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner more control over unreasonable premium increases; prohibits lifetime limits on health benefits; creates new coverage options for individuals with pre-existing conditions; makes coverage more affordable for small businesses with tax credits; and protects Rhode Islanders from being dropped from coverage.
We will hear from several members of our community who are benefitting from this historic legislation.
We will also hear from Bill Newkirk, Rhode Island School of Design Dean of Architecture and Design,
who will speak to the difficulty of communicating health reform, and explain the student artwork on display.
First, I would like to introduce Geoff Gaunt, owner of Providence Picture Frame, who claimed the small business healthcare tax credit. Geoff feels he has a moral obligation to provide coverage for employees because, as he told me, “It’s the right thing to do.” The Small Business Healthcare Tax Credit passed within the Affordable Care Act in 2010, allowing a credit of up to 35% of premiums paid by a small business for employee coverage, and up to 25% for non-profits. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the Small Business Healthcare Tax Credit will save U.S. small businesses $40 billion by 2019.
[Jeff Gaunt speaks]
Next, I would like to introduce Jane Natale, a senior citizen who developed health complications that required numerous medications to manage her conditions. Because of the costs of her medications, she fell into the Medicare Part D donut hole, which required her to pay out-of-pocket for her prescription drug costs. Jane was one of almost 15,800 people with Medicare in Rhode Island who received a $250 rebate last year to help cover her medications cost. Also last year, over 14,800 Rhode Islanders with Medicare received a 50% discount on covered brand-name prescriptions when they reached donut hole. The discount resulted in an average savings of over $500 per senior for a total savings of over $8.2 million to Rhode Island seniors.
[Jane Natale speaks]
Finally, I would like to introduce Brianne Day, a young woman under the age of 26, who is working part time and staying on mother’s insurance. Brianne is 22 years old and lives in Providence. She graduated from University of Rhode Island last May and is currently working part-time as a physical therapy aide.
Brianne suffers from numerous allergies, which require expensive medications that she could not afford on her part-time salary. She is not eligible for coverage from her employer. Brianne remained on her mother’s coverage, which enabled her to get treatments while affording her mom peace of mind. As of June 2011, Brianne was one of more than 7,500 young adults in Rhode Island who gained coverage as a result of the Affordable Care Act.
[Brianne Day speaks]
As we look forward to all the progress and work that we have ahead of us, I would like to acknowledge our special guests who have displayed tremendous commitment to ensuring all Rhode Islanders have access to high quality affordable health care coverage.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a leader in the effort to expand the use of Information Technology in healthcare to lower costs and improve the quality of care, helping Rhode Island become a national leader in developing and implementing this technology.
Kathleen Otte, Administrator for Boston, New York, and Philadelphia Regional Offices of the US Administration on Aging. She represents the Administration and the Assistant Secretary on Aging in all matters related to the implementation of the Older Americans Act and other aging-related issues within the 14 states and 2 territories she oversees.
Stephen Costantino, Secretary of the RI Executive Office of Health and Human Services.
Chris Koller, Health Insurance Commissioner
And now, for the highlight of today’s celebration, Bill Newkirk, Dean of Architecture and Design will explain Lindsay Kinkade’s class, “Making It Understandable,” and the artwork on display. I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to one of Lindsay’s classes and have witnessed firsthand the wealth of creativity put forth by the students who have developed these informative and artistic pieces as a means of communicating the very complicated topic of health reform.
[Bill Newkirk speaks]
Thank you, everyone, for being here. Please stay and enjoy the artwork and refreshments.