RI gov, conservative think tank at odds over impacts of GOP health bill

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island officials say more than 70,000 people in the state could lose medical coverage through the GOP-backed health care bill before the U.S. House. However, a local think tank said the governor and others on the left are spreading unnecessary fears about the proposed federal reforms.

Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo outlined her concerns during a news conference Thursday, saying the legislation would have a dramatic ripple effect on Rhode Islanders, their health care, and their wallets.

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“This is much more than politics,” said Raimondo. “‘Trumpcare’ will hurt many people in Rhode Island. Lives are literally at risk.”

“The message to President Trump, the message to the Congress, the message to Speaker Ryan,” she continued, “is that the ‘Trumpcare’ plan is wrong. It’s not moral, it’s not right, it’s not necessary, and we the people of Rhode Island will be harmed if it’s passed.”

Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the nonpartisan Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity said fear-mongering is not helpful to legitimate debate.

“Unfortunately, the governor and others on the left do not understand the goals of these reforms; they see government-run Medicaid as the end-all, be-all when it comes to health insurance coverage; and they are spreading unnecessary fears about the proposed federal reforms,” Stenhouse said in a statement. “Even though Medicaid is a taxpayer-costly, low-quality insurance option, no one will be thrown off or defunded from the system.”

State health officials said Wednesday it would be hard for the state to spend more than $200 million a year to make up for proposed federal cuts to the Medicaid program affecting more than 70,000 low-income earners in the state.

Former President Barack Obama’s 2010 Affordable Care Act expanded Medicaid coverage, but the bill being considered in the House aims to repeal and replace Obama’s law.

Raimondo said 110,000 Rhode Islanders have health coverage through Obamacare and reiterated that many will lose out under the GOP’s bill.

“By and large, the Affordable Care Act is working here in Rhode Island,” she said. “We have 96 percent of Rhode Islanders who are insured. That’s almost full coverage.”

State health care officials also worry about a projected loss of millions of dollars in public health funding and a destabilization of the state’s health insurance exchange.

However, Stenhouse said the GOP’s proposed plan would actually benefit Rhode Islanders and give the state more flexibility.

“The American Healthcare Act seeks to responsibly provide more US citizens with higher-quality, more cost-effective private insurance. This will be achieved through a generous new program of tax-credits and/or payroll deductions that will give Rhode Islanders more choices and multiple new options when it comes to purchasing an insurance plan that best fits their needs. This as opposed to the one-size-fits-all government-mandated coverage that American are now forced to purchase,” Stenhouse said. “Further, the state block-grant aspect of the AHA, will give the Governor, other lawmakers, and health care officials tremendous new flexibility to innovate when it comes to  utilizing federal funds in a manner that best suits our state.”