Delivery of Care

Big budget victory on raising Medicaid rates

The House and Senate leadership listened to what advocates had to say, even if the news media was not paying attention

Image courtesy of Tina Spears

State Rep. Tina Spears

By Richard Asinof
Posted 6/2/24
Community advocates won a major battle in the FY 2025 budget, with increased rates for Medicaid providers – as recommended by OHIC – being approved, with the increased rates taking effect immediately.
Why didn’t the news media in Rhode Island give more prominence in their reporting about the budget to the story of the successful campaign to increase Medicaid rates? Which hospital leaders will speak out and praise the increase in Medicaid rates for providers? Is there a need to hold a seminar for Rhode Island reporters on how to provide better health care coverage?
The more-than-four-hour talk-a-thon held at the State House on Tuesday, May 28, organized by House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi, had an audience that included most of the leaders of the health care industry in Rhode Island, a veritable who’s who of the state’s largest private employer. Naming names would be an enterprising task – suffice it to say that ConvergenceRI found it to be an astounding gathering. There was a lot to take in, not just what was said from the podium, but in the sidebar conversations. At one time or another over the last decade, ConvergenceRI had interviewed most of the players in the room. Many came up to say hello,
What was not clear after the gathering was if there was any consensus on potential solutions to the ongoing health care crisis in Rhode Island. Stay tuned.

PROVIDENCE – The state budget is often a bare-knuckle brawl behind closed doors, but this year, the community advocates – and the service providers who care for more than one-third of Rhode Islanders – appeared to have a great victory. House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi listened and the state budget announced on Friday night, May 31, fully funded the increases in the Medicaid budget recommended by OHIC Commissioner Cory King in September of 2023. [See link to ConvergenceRI story below, “Gaining traction.”]

Even better, those increases will take effect immediately in FY 2025 and not be phased in over four years, as Gov. Dan McKee had proposed.

And, barring any last-minute ploys by lobbyists representing the state’s three Managed Care Organizations – UnitedHealthcare, Tufts Health Plan, and Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island, the MCOS will be required to pay the same increased rates as approved in the FY 2025 budget by the General Assembly.

Of course, it is not a done deal until both the House and the Senate pass the budget intact, but the community advocates can be extraordinarily proud of their efforts. As one advocate told ConvergenceRI this weekend, “The budget is out of the House Finance Committee without challenge,” but she expressed worry that the CEOs and lobbyists from the managed care organizations will attempt to find a way to avoid having to pay the increased rates.

The power of speaking out, being heard    
Rep. Tina Spears, executive director of the Community Providers Network of Rhode Island, was a key figure in lobbying for increased rate-setting for Medicaid providers, said that the FY 2025 budget provided “100 percent” of what had been requested. “The Speaker and the House of Representatives have prioritized our communities’ needs,” she told ConvergenceRI. "This is a critical investment and I appreciate his leadership.” [See link below to ConvergenceRI story, “Voters elect candidates who listen.”]

John J. Tassoni, Jr., president and CEO of the Substance Use and Mental Health Leadership Council of RI, praised the leadership of the General Assembly. “Thank you to the Speaker and the Senate President for all their work on this very important issue,” Tassoni said. “And, thank you to all of the advocates who put the effort in to get this done.”

Tassoni continued: “I’m thankful the General Assembly saw fit to fully fund the rate increases for my members.”

Moving forward    
The House Speaker and Senate President listened to what the advocates said; in turn, they rejected the arguments made by Gov. Dan McKee and his administration.

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