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Thursday, March 20 2014 11:59am    Comments: 0    Categories: Chamber News      Tags: healthcare  

Stephen C. Boyle: Stop soaking R.I. small businesses for health programs

March 19, 2014 01:00 AM

A fruit bouquet from "Edible Arrangements" at an event last Sepember hosted by the Cranston Chamber of Commerce.
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The Feb. 27 image of Rhode Island Health Commissioner Michael Fine silhouetted against a screen that reads, “We have the best overall rate of adolescent immunization in the country,” caught my attention.

I applaud the fine work that has been done to immunize Rhode Island’s youth. However, it’s important to acknowledge that the small business community in Rhode Island has unfairly shouldered the lion’s share of the cost of this effort; it’s time for a more equitable funding of these critical programs.

In Rhode Island, small- and medium-sized businesses that buy health insurance directly from one of the major insurers, along with individuals who purchase insurance directly from insurers, pay nearly $60 million in taxes and fees on that coverage. Those fees fund health programs and other services for all state residents, including free immunizations for children and adults, and health services for children with special health-care needs. The state’s largest self-insured employers do not contribute to these programs at all.

We should be proud of the important strides that Rhode Island has made in vaccinating all of its youth, but the costs should be borne by all those with health coverage, not just small- and medium-sized businesses and individuals, who can least afford to shoulder those additional costs on behalf of the state.

Senate Bill 2484 is pending before the General Assembly. The Equitable Funding for Essential Health Services Act would change the funding formula and require larger employers to contribute as well, ensuring a sustainable source of funding for these critically important programs while providing some relief to insured individuals and small- to medium-sized businesses.

I hope others will urge their legislators to support Senate Bill 2484, so we can continue funding these important programs without overburdening small businesses.

Stephen C. Boyle ( is president of the Cranston Chamber of Commerce.

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