Senate approves bill enacting Obamacare consumer protections in state law


STATE HOUSE – The Senate today approved legislation sponsored by Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller to enact many of the consumer-protection elements of the federal Affordable Care Act — commonly called “Obamacare” — into state law.

The bill would provide Rhode Islanders with permanent protections, even if the federal law is ever weakened or repealed.

“Just as we saw last year when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, enacting protection at the state level is the only way to truly guarantee the rights and protections we want Rhode Islanders to have. We codified the protections of Roe v. Wade at the state level in 2019 with the Reproductive Privacy Act, and that meant Rhode Islanders’ reproductive rights remained intact regardless of the Supreme Court decision,” said Chairman Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence). “We should do the same with the rights afforded by the Affordable Care Act, which has been a target since it passed in 2010, and which remains the subject of litigation concerning preventive care requirements. We want to ensure that Rhode Islanders have these critical protections, so we need to put them into Rhode Island law.”

The bill (2023-S 0023a) would enact in state law protections including prohibitions on insurers denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions or refusing to issue or renew an individual’s policy, protecting them even if they are sick. It would protect the requirement that preventive services must be covered with no cost sharing, and the requirement that insurance policies cover ten essential health benefits:

  1. Ambulatory patient services;
  2. Emergency services;
  3. Hospitalization;
  4. Maternity and newborn care;
  5. Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment;
  6. Prescription drugs;
  7. Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices;
  8. Laboratory services;
  9. Preventive services, wellness services, and chronic disease management; and
  10. Pediatric services, including oral and vision care.

The bill does not exceed the requirements of the federal ACA, require any new state funding or increase premium costs from current levels. It does not change Medicaid and would not have any new impacts on businesses.

“This bill makes no actual changes to anyone’s health care or costs. In fact, its purpose is to make sure health care doesn’t change, or at least is largely protected, if the ACA were ever overturned. Rhode Islanders’ health care protections shouldn’t be subject to Washington’s politics,” said Chairman Miller. 

The bill will now go to the House of Representatives, where Rep. June S. Speakman is sponsoring companion legislation (2023-H 5426).