Islander named head of health-insurance exchange
Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee last week announced Christine Ferguson as the director of the Rhode Island Health Benefits Exchange. The exchange will link consumers and employees with affordable health coverage and is supported by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
“It is an economic imperative to solve the problem of the uninsured and rising healthcare costs in our state, and the Health Benefits Exchange will help us address this challenge,” said Chafee.
The exchange will function as an online marketplace to easily compare and purchase health insurance for individuals, families and small businesses. It is scheduled to start enrolling Rhode Islanders in health insurance by late 2013 to begin covering individuals by 2014. Currently, an exchange board has been recommending design and policy decisions for the exchange to the governor in the early phases of development. Ferguson, a Jamestown resident, will now undertake the leadership of the design, development and operation of the exchange. Advisory board members already appointed by the governor will serve as her advisors in that process.
“We have made tremendous progress in reforming our state’s healthcare system to benefit Rhode Islanders, and we’re leading the country in developing a health benefits exchange,” said Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts, who is the chairwoman of the state Healthcare Reform Commission. “However, the increasingly unaffordable cost of health coverage for our state’s families and businesses must be addressed, and health reform implementation must continue to move forward in Rhode Island. Christy Ferguson is a nationally respected leader who can help Rhode Island to navigate the challenging waters of healthcare reform whatever may change at the federal level in the coming months and years.” Ferguson is a professor at George Washington University focusing on health policy and health insurance issues. From 2003 to 2005, she served as commissioner of the Department of Public Health in Massachusetts where she oversaw the finance and policy. From 1995 to 2001, Ferguson ran the Rhode Island Department of Human Services. Prior to that, she served as counsel and deputy chief of staff for U.S. Sen. John H. Chafee from 1981 to 1995.