opinion Newport Rhode Island

This week the Rhode Island House Finance Committee will be hearing two proposals that are crucial to maintaining the health and well-being of Rhode Islanders during the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.  

If there is anything positive to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is that we learned how effective Telemedicine can be. The Governor had issued a number of successive Executive Orders requiring insurers in Rhode Island to cover Telemedicine for all types of services – medical, dental and behavioral – at the same rate they would for in-person appointments.  Healthcare providers have reported increased appointment attendance rates between 85% to 95%.  Barriers to in-person appointments have been eliminated like physical mobility issues; lack of transportation; childcare or eldercare; the need to take time off work and lost wages; and a safe way for persons most at risk for contracting the virus, like seniors, to monitor their health and consult with their healthcare providers without added risk.  And using telemedicine does not prohibit an in-person visit if that is appropriate. An amendment to the FY21 state budget by the Governor would extend telemedicine through June 30, 2021. 

The other critically important healthcare proposal currently in the proposed state budget comes in response to a challenge to the Affordable Care Act now before the United States Supreme Court, which could invalidate the entire law. The budget article would guarantee for Rhode Islanders coverage regardless of pre-existing conditions; the ten essential health benefits required by the current Affordable Care Act; and coverage with no cost for preventative and wellness services. If passed, these assurances would still exist for Rhode Islanders no matter what the United State Supreme Court decides.

Please let your State Representative know that you support extending telemedicine and the state health insurance guarantees as proposed in the FY21 state budget.

Judy K. Jones, Newport, RI

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