Rite Share program draws few enrollees

The Providence Journal
by Edward Fitzpatrick

"The state's new health insurance subsidy program is off to a slow start with just 33 people enrolling since Rite Share was launched Feb.1... "

"Under Rite Share (a health insurance subsidy program), the state pays a portion of health-insurance premiums for workers if they stick with their employer-provided insurance rather than relying solely on the state. The subsidies are expected to cost the state less than having those people on Rite Care (a state health-insurance program for low- and moderate-income families)."

Jane A. Hayward, Rhode Island Human Services Deputy Director:

"We think we are better off having people stay on employer-sponsored health care rather than coming onto a fully state-subsidized program --both for continuity of health care and for the state's fiscal interests."

Comment: Rhode Island's experience portends the future of health care in America, if the current political agenda is enacted. The Bush administration and moderates and conservatives in Congress support programs for low income individuals, including Medicaid and S-CHIP, and they support tax credits for assisting low to moderate income individuals with the purchase of private health plans. The experience in each state already has proven that it is impossible to enroll all low income individuals into the "welfare" health insurance programs (Medicaid and S-CHIP), as we still have 42 million without coverage. Rhode Island has now provided us with an example of the next phase of health care reform: insurance subsidies (analogous to vouchers, or tax credits, or other comparable proposals).

Rhode Island's early experience is proving the wisdom of the words of Sen. John Rockefeller, spoken at a Senate Finance Committee hearing on March 15. His words are worth repeating here:

"So that if you're going to do health insurance for people, then you have to do it properly. And the tax credit is the wrong approach. It is the wrong approach, period. That's all there is to it. It will not work. It will not work at the figures that are being offered by you... the figures that'll come in part from the other side, maybe some from our side. It won't work. And I think we have to decide on this committee do we want people to get health insurance or do we not?"