By Richard Asinof
PROVIDENCE – A new small-employer health task force is being convened by the R.I. Health Insurance Commissioner Christopher F. Koller, in partnership with the Providence Plan and the Smaller Business Association of New England.
The goal, according to Koller, is to get direct public input “from the people who are paying the bills” to assist OHIC in its process of rate-setting for commercial health insurance products for small businesses.
The first meeting, to be held on Feb. 2, beginning at 8:30 a.m. at The Rhode Island Foundation, will feature Michael Bailit, president of Bailit Health Purchasing, discussing why health insurance costs are growing so quickly and what can be done about it.
Future meetings will include Lt. Gov. Elizabeth H. Roberts, Peter Andruszkiewicz, president and CEO, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, and Stephen Farrell, CEO of United Healthcare of New England.
“We want to create an engaged group of stakeholders to work on these issues,” Koller said, who explained that the initiative is being funded with $150,000 in funds from the federal insurance rate review grant. “We want to build a coalition of smaller businesses.”
Koller envisions the coalition beginning with a series of educational forums, to explain what is driving health insurance costs and to engage in an active dialogue with health plans and hospitals. “You can’t just point the finger at hospitals, at health insurers or at patients,” Koller continued. “We all have created a situation where are health costs are 75 percent higher than any other country.”
To help solve the problem in Rhode Island, Koller wants to get the smaller businesses and nonprofits engaged in the dialogue. “There are really important trade-offs between well paid providers, solvent health insurers, and affordable health plans for employers,” he said. “I need to people who pay the bills to be really engaged in these issues. They are the ones who are often heard the least.”