Good, affordable health insurance is still available in R.I.

Originally published in: Providence Journal (November 15, 2017)

The health-care chaos coming out of Washington may have achieved President Trump’s desired effect: recent polls indicate up to a quarter of American voters mistakenly believe that the Affordable Care Act (often referred to as Obamacare) has been repealed

Despite the confusion out there, make no mistake: Obamacare is alive and well, particularly here in Rhode Island.

Roughly 30,000 Rhode Islanders rely on a variety of high-quality plans offered on Rhode Island’s health insurance exchange (HealthSourceRI). While other states are experiencing massive rate hikes, Rhode Island’s increases remain among the lowest in the nation. Small businesses, families and individuals who could not otherwise afford health insurance all benefit from the affordable plans on our state’s exchange.

And while it is true that Trump’s decision to end subsidies to insurance companies has driven up premiums, there is a silver lining there, too. Most folks who purchase coverage via HealthSourceRI are still eligible for significant tax credits. In fact, a new federal study shows that those tax credits will be larger than ever in 2018 (as a result of the removal of the subsidies) — so it is possible that some Rhode Islanders shopping on our state’s exchange will pay less for their health insurance next year.

It is ironic that President Trump’s efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act and to cause anxiety and confusion across the country may actually result in lower health care costs for some Rhode Islanders. Nevertheless, it’s true that your health insurance bill could go down for 2018 if you are buying an Obamacare plan.

In his haste to explode Obamacare, President Trump has forgotten a fundamental tenet of health care: the choices we make about the care we receive are intensely personal. We lean on the great hospitals, doctors, nursing homes, and hospice care here in Rhode Island when we are dealing with personal health crises. Whether you are seeking care for yourself, your child, your spouse, or your mom or dad, you want the freedom to make the choices that are most appropriate for you and your family.

Rhode Islanders want and deserve affordable health-care choices that will make these critical moments less stressful — and less expensive. That makes the current Open Enrollment period, from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31, all the more important.

Excellent, affordable health insurance is readily available. The key is to shop. Go to HealthSourceRI.com and take a look at options for you, your family, and your employees. You will find many high-quality plans to fit your needs.

Even though you may purchase your plan via HealthSourceRI’s website or phone number, you should also consider getting in touch with the insurance company you are considering. Call its toll-free number. Get familiar with what it has to offer. Its staff will be able to verify that your doctors are in the company’s network and that the prescriptions you need will be covered — and they can answer your other questions, too.

Purchasing health insurance can be intimidating. You want to choose a company that makes you feel comfortable and confident in your decisions. It is the insurance company’s responsibility to make it easier for you to address your family’s health needs and to remove barriers to great health care.

Lastly, this year’s open enrollment period is shorter than in previous years. That means once you choose the 2018 health plan that fits your family’s needs, you have a smaller window to pay your first bill: it must be paid by the end of 2017.

Taking this step toward affordable care will ensure that you and your family have the peace of mind we all seek as we navigate these very challenging times.

Peter Marino is president and CEO of Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island.