By Richard Asinof
PROVIDENCE – When Rhode Island Kids Count held its 12th annual Celebration of Children’s Health on Nov. 19, the numbers told part of the story: Rhode Island is a national leader in providing timely prenatal care, vaccination coverage, low teen deaths, parents’ health coverage, and children’s health coverage.
Only about 13,000 of Rhode Island’s 252,000 children are without health insurance, according to data compiled by Jill Beckwith of Rhode Island Kids Count. Some 137,000 receive insurance through employer sponsored health plans, 86,000 received insurance through RIte Care in Medicaid managed plans through Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island and UnitedHealthcare, another 9,000 receive coverage through the Direct Pay plan offered by Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, and 7,000 receive coverage through non-Medicaid government plans.
Of the uninsured children, Beckwith’s data estimates that about three-quarters are eligible for coverage under RIte Care, but live in families that do not know about the program or face administrative barriers.
The outcomes achieved by advocates for children’s health care needs were underscored by an equally important fact: the tremendous support provided by a coalition of Rhode Island’s elected officials and business and community leaders, nurtured by Elizabeth Burke Bryant, the executive director of Rhode Island Kids Count, over the past two decades.
Among those receiving “Covering Kids” awards were Dr. Maureen Phipps of Women & Infants Hospital, Adriana Vargas of Providence Community Health Centers, both Neighborhood Health Plan and UnitedHealthcare, Sen. Jack Reed, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee, Rep. James Langevin, Lt. Gov. Elizabeth H. Roberts, R.I. Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed and R.I. House Speaker Gordon Fox.
Among those in the audience were Christopher F. Koller, R.I. Health Insurance Commissioner, Dr. Michael Fine, director of the R.I. Department of Health, Peter Andruszkiewicz, president and CEO of Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, Steven Costantino, secretary of the R.I. Executive Office of Health and Human Services (who accepted the award on behalf of Chafee), First Lady Stephanie Chafee, and Christine C. Ferguson, director of the R.I. Health Benefits Exchange.
“We in Rhode Island are a very special community, an ecosystem of health care innovation, moving faster, further and more forward than any community in the nation,” said Whitehouse.