Better way to shop for insurance?

By Richard Asinof
Contributing Writer
Rhode Island took the first step in its goal to make health-insurance costs and services more transparent with the Aug. 20 release of data on plans that will be offered through the state’s new insurance marketplace, HealthSourceRI. More

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FOCUS: HEALTH CARE

Better way to shop for insurance?

By Richard Asinof
Contributing Writer
Posted 9/2/13

Rhode Island took the first step in its goal to make health-insurance costs and services more transparent with the Aug. 20 release of data on plans that will be offered through the state’s new insurance marketplace, HealthSourceRI.

The biggest advantage of the new exchange, said HealthSourceRI Executive Director Christine Ferguson, will be the introduction of “Full Employee Choice.” The service will enable employers to select the contribution level that best fits the budget, and employees to select the plan that best meets their needs. Under the plan, the employer writes one check, and the employees will have access to seven-day-a-week support, removing health insurance as a human resource concern for a small business.

“The bet is that people in Rhode Island are not stupid,” said Ferguson, and they will be able to figure out the best package when looking at prices for health insurance. Two large, detailed charts that will be made available to the public will identify premiums, deductibles, services, copays and co-insurance for services and maximum out-of-pocket expenses for the available plans.

Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, the state’s largest health insurer, said the level of detail and the side-by-side comparisons will be helpful to consumers in making good choices when the new marketplace opens for business on Oct. 1.

“We understand that health insurance is confusing and that everyone has different health care needs, which is why we fully support giving consumers the information they need to make these important decisions,” said Stacy Paterno, Blue Cross spokeswoman.

Blue Cross is offering 10 of the 12 plans in the individual and family market and nine of the 16 plans for small businesses with fewer than 50 employees. The health insurer is also undertaking its own outreach and education campaign, hosting meetings for employers as well as individuals, offering to share HealthSourceRI materials at those sessions.

The release of the new health-insurance product line also marks the entrance of Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island into the state’s commercial insurance market, offering two plans as part of the individual and family marketplace and two plans for small-business employees. The plans will be available to Rhode Islanders whose yearly income is below 250 percent of the federal poverty level – $28,275 for individuals and $48,825 for a family of four.

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