HEALTH | RITE CARE
Hundreds of families could lose insurance
Agencies see problems in RIte Care adopting online system, shrinking renewal period
By LINDA BORG JOURNAL STAFF WRITER
PROVIDENCE — More than 1,300 families could lose their RIte Care health insurance next month because of a change in the way families renew their coverage, according to the Economic Progress Institute and R.I. Kids Count.
Linda Katz, policy director for the institute, said families enrolled in RIte Care are required to renew coverage once a year. Until now, families were mailed a simple renewal form, which they completed and submitted with proof of income. RIte Care is a state-run health plan for moderate to low-income families, many of whom work.
Each month, one-twelfth of the total caseload would be asked to renew their coverage.
This year, however, the state is switching to an online renewal process and they are requiring everyone to submit their renewals within a six-month period, not a 12-month period, Katz said.
“The vast majority of these families will likely remain eligible for RIte Care,” she said. “We fear that families will lose coverage not because they are ineligible but because this renewal system is totally new to them.”
“We cannot afford to go backwards when it comes to insuring low-income children and families,” said Elizabeth Burke Bryant, executive director of R.I. Kids Count, a nonprofit that advocates for children. “The positive children’s health outcomes that R.I. has achieved will be at risk if thousands of children and parents who qualify for the program are terminated and disconnected from health care due to confusion related to the renewal process.”
A total of 3,100 parents received notices in June, Katz said. By the end of last week, more than 40 percent — or 1,300 families — hadn’t renewed their coverage.
“What we’re worried about is the new way requires families to use a system that they are not familiar with,” Katz said. “There are places where people can get stuck.”
The state Office of Health and Human Services has responded in part to the institute’s concerns by moving the renewal deadline from late July to Aug. 15 for this first group of families, Katz said.
“We think the state can take steps to make this process go smoother,” she said. “The state should allow people to renew their coverage anytime between now and the end of the year.”
This approach, Katz said, would allow families to renew their health insurance at the state Department of Human Services when they renew other benefits or when they go to a health care provider.
Katz and Bryant urged families to watch for a yellow renewal notice in the mail and to start the process as soon as they can.
Families may also renew over the phone by calling
(855) 651-7879 or using the online application, eohhs.ri.gov/renewals. Families with questions may also call Rachel Flum at the R.I. Health Coverage Project at
(401) 456-2751. firstname.lastname@example.org