R.I. senate passes health exchange bill

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The Rhode Island Senate has approved legislation to establish a state health benefit exchange.

The health benefit exchange will enable small businesses and individuals to learn about health insurance options and available subsidies. The Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act of 2010 requires states to establish health benefit exchanges, and that they be fully operational by 2014.

Exchanges are intended to expand healthcare coverage, improve the quality of coverage, increase competition and transparency and reduce costs. Individuals and small businesses can visit the health benefit exchange website to purchase insurance or learn more about their options.

The exchange is the first step toward increasing access to health care for all Rhode Islanders, said President of the Senate M. Teresa Paiva Weed. The intent of the exchange is to create a health benefit marketplace that is fair, competitive, transparent and understandable to individuals and small businesses, and to get federal subsidies to people who need them, Weed said.