Sen. Lawson introduces bill to establish the Catastrophic Illness in Children Relief Fund


STATE HOUSE – Sen. Valarie J. Lawson (D-Dist. 14, East Providence) has introduced legislation (2020-S 2465) which would establish the Catastrophic Illness in Children Relief Fund to provide financial assistance to families with children stricken by a catastrophic illness for medical expenses not covered by any other state or federal program or any insurance contract.

“As the cost of healthcare continues to rise, we are seeing too many families who at best are financially crippled due to a child’s catastrophic illness, or at worst, are unable to provide treatment for their sick and suffering children.  This is simply not right.  This fund will help with this all-too-real problem that many families in our state face, and I hope that if enacted, it will provide a measure of relief for families going through extremely difficult times,” said Senator Lawson.

The fund would be available to all children who are residents of Rhode Island and are 21 years old or younger.  Catastrophic illness is defined as any illness or condition of which the medical expenses are not covered through a government program or private insurance that exceeds 10 percent of the first $100,000 of annual family income, plus 15 percent of the excess income over $100,000 for a family annually.

The amount of reimbursement for the medical expenses would be established through a sliding fee scale based on a family’s ability to pay, which takes into account family size, income, and assets.  All medical records for any child that apply for the fund would be kept confidential.

The legislation also establishes a 9-member commission to oversee the fund consisting of department directors, such as the Director of the Department of Human Services, healthcare professionals, and members of the public.  The General Treasurer would be the custodian of the fund and responsible for disbursements of the fund according to the direction of the commission.

Monies for the fund would be generated through a $1.50 annual surcharge per employee for all employers who are subject to employment security laws.  The surcharge will be collected by the Director of the Department of Labor and Training and transferred to the control of the General Treasurer to deposit into the fund.

The commission shall submit an annual report to the governor, the Senate, and the House of Representatives regarding the number of participants, average expenditures per participant, and other data relative to the ongoing administration of the fund.

“Establishing this safety-net is simply the right thing to do for our children and families suffering from catastrophic illnesses and conditions.  No Rhode Island resident deserves to be plunged into bankruptcy or have to watch their child suffer due to an inability to pay costly, but, also necessary medical treatment,” concluded Senator Lawson.

The bill has been referred to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.


For an electronic version of this and all press releases published by the Legislative Press and Public Information Bureau, please visit our website at