Rhode Island’s Affordable Care Act (“ObamaCare”) health benefits exchange lost 5,027 members (18.6%) as of the December 31 deadline for open enrollment. Officials largely blame the withdrawal of UnitedHealthcare’s plans:
HealthSource RI said in a statement that the “main driver” of the enrollment decline was the departure from the market of UnitedHealthcare, which HealthSource RI estimated insured roughly 1,400 exchange customers in 2016.
One source of lost customers was more significant, however: Medicaid. A HealthSource spokesperson tells the Current that “about 1500 individuals who had [qualified health plan] coverage at the start of Open Enrollment have since been determined eligible and enrolled in Medicaid.” A request for the number of Medicaid recipients who went the other way — losing the taxpayer-funded welfare benefit and signing up for a paid (if taxpayer subsidized) plan — had received no reply as of this writing.
Since the beginning of HealthSource RI and the related Unified Health Infrastructure Project (UHIP), the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity has warned that the system was designed to draw Rhode Islanders toward welfare benefits and dependence on government. From the beginning, new Medicaid enrollment has far exceeded the numbers of Rhode Islanders who have used the exchange to purchase insurance.
These decisions and results have been a significant part of Rhode Island’s drop to 48th in the country on the Center’s Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI) and to 39th on the index’s Freedom Factor, which is the ratio of jobs and employment to reliance on welfare programs.