April 12, 2024

RI Senate confirms Cory King to permanent post as health insurance commissioner • Rhode Island Current

Cory King will continue to lead the Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner (OHIC) in Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Senate confirmed in a vote Tuesday.

The Senate confirmation was nearly unanimous, with 34 affirmative votes. Only Sen. Susan Sosnowski, a Democrat from South Kingstown, voted no. Two senators – Victoria Gu and Thomas Paolino – were not present.

King – who has been acting commissioner of the agency since December 2022 – was nominated for the permanent post by Governor Dan McKee on March 21.

The commissioner’s office is part of the Department of Business Regulation and is charged with reforming and regulating commercial health insurance in the state. In last month’s announcement, McKee’s office cited two notable initiatives during King’s tenure to date: the Accountability and Transparency Program for Healthcare Spendingwhich analyzes its titular subjects in an effort to reduce health care costs for Rhode Islanders, as well as OHIC’s data huba publicly accessible data tool that analyzes price trends on a variety of healthcare topics, such as which types of medications or diagnoses tend to be the most expensive for patients.

In a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon before his appointment was confirmed, King said that as permanent commissioner he will continue to work on the five goals he set as acting commissioner.

McKee appoints Cory King as state health insurance commissioner

The first goal is his office’s “core regulatory work,” while a second goal is to implement broader policy changes that would “support greater investments in primary care and reduce administrative burdens on health care providers,” King said.

A third goal is to ensure equity in behavioral health care — meaning Rhode Islanders “can access their behavioral health care benefits on the same terms as physical health care,” King said. “[That means] looking at insurance companies’ compliance with their obligations under federal and state laws regarding behavioral health equity.”

Behavioral equity in healthcare has been a hot issue over the past year President Joe Biden is trying to change parity laws – that changes say insurers can have the opposite effect and lead to a decrease in the quality of and access to mental health care.

Fourth, King identified his work on Medicaid reimbursement rates as necessary work that will certainly continue. King’s efforts to date led his office to achieve this goal recommend an interest rate increase for Medicaid providers – something McKee has incorporated into his budget for the financial year 2025.

“We will begin the next cycle of health and human services reviews later this year,” King said, a process he said takes place every two years. The last cycle of tariff revisions was completed in September 2023.

The latter goal, King said, is “to try to position OHIC as a hub for data and analysis on the performance of Rhode Island’s health care system,” something he argues will push back against both legislative and public views on health care that are not based on reality.

“I think the Legislature needs access to really good data, current data, because so much of our health care discourse in the state is driven by anecdotes and claims, and they need to be more data-driven so that we can tailor policy to the problems that arise. challenges, whether that’s in primary care or hospital financial performance and so on,” King said.

The data hub — which launched last year and was praised in McKee’s nomination announcement — aims to make the complexities of the state’s health care spending more transparent and accessible to the public, King said: “So that’s a huge priority for me . to continue to position OHIC as the agency that is truly leading that work.”

In his motion seeking advice and consent, Sen. Joshua Miller, a Cranston Democrat, said King “continues to make OHIC an important health policy and data source.” That was echoed by Sen. Linda Ujifusa, a Portsmouth Democrat, who rose in support of King’s confirmation.

“We may not always agree on policy, but he has always been an incredible source of facts and data,” Ujifusa said.

Sen. Sam Bell, a Democrat from Providence, praised McKee for the appointment. Unlike last year’s nomination of Richard Charest to lead the state Department of Human Services, which Bell’really bad”, the senator appreciated King’s efforts thus far.

“Commissioner King has been one of the most meaningful leaders in the McKee administration when it comes to substantive policy changes,” Bell said, noting King’s “work in regulating health insurers – or at least the third that we are allowed to regulate .” .”

Bell praised King’s work to triple insurers’ investments in children’s behavioral health, but especially for relaxing “the truly cruel hard caps rule that has crushed our hospital budgets.”

Affordability standards received in the state national attention for their unique approach. The caps are intended to increase insurers’ investments in primary care and ultimately reduce healthcare costs at the consumer level.

“There’s still some work to be done,” Bell said. “I would like him to be more critical of the insurers on a number of points. But I think he’s really made remarkable progress.”

Democratic Senators Pam Lauria, Lou DiPalma and Sam Zurier also rose in support of King’s confirmation, and Senators Zurier and Valarie Lawson approached King with congratulations after his confirmation.

King served as OHIC’s policy director from 2019 to 2021 and as chief of staff from 2021 to 2022. He then began his service as acting commissioner. The Tulane University student earned a master’s degree in public policy from Brown University in 2013.

King’s appointment is the third health-related post recently filled in McKee’s executive suite. Richard Leclerc was confirmed as director of the Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental Disabilities on March 14. At the Department of Health, Staci Fischer said replaced interim director Utpala Bandy on March 28. Fischer is one of three acting directors who remain in the upper reaches of Rhode Island’s government. The other two are Wayne T. Salisbury Jr., acting director of the Department of Corrections, and Christopher Kearns, acting commissioner of the Office of Energy Resources.

According to the state’s open payroll portal, King’s salary for fiscal year 2024 was $133,918.

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