RI Senate confirms Cory King for permanent position as state health insurance commissioner • Rhode Island Current

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

The Senate’s confirmation was almost unanimous, with 34 positive votes. Only Sen. Susan Sosnowski, a Democrat in South Kingstown, voted no. Two senators – Victoria Gu and Thomas Paolino – were not present.

King — who has served as the office’s acting commissioner since December 2022 — was appointed to the permanent post by Gov. Dan McKee on March 21.

The Commissioner’s Office is part of the Department of Business Regulation and is tasked with reforming and regulating commercial health insurance in the state. In last month’s announcement, McKee’s office cited two notable initiatives of King’s tenure so far: Health Expenditure Accountability and Transparency Programwhich analyzes its headline topics in an effort to reduce health care costs for Rhode Islanders, as well as OHIC Data Centera publicly accessible data tool that analyzes price trends on a variety of health care topics—such as, for example, which types of drugs or diagnoses tend to be more expensive for patients.

In a phone 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.

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 make broader policy changes that will “support greater investment in primary care and ease the administrative burden on health care providers.” , King said.

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

Behavioral health care equity has been a hot topic in the past year, with President Joe Biden is trying to modify equality laws – change it say the insurers it can have the opposite effect and lead to a decrease in the quality and access to mental health care.

Fourth, King identified his work on Medicaid reimbursement rates as necessary work that will certainly continue. The King’s efforts so far have led his office to the right recommend a fee increase for Medicaid providers — something McKee included in his budget for fiscal year 2025.

“We will begin the next Health and Human Services rate review cycle later this year,” King said, a process he said occurs every two years. The last cycle of tariff reviews was completed in September 2023.

The ultimate goal, King said, is “trying to position OHIC as a hub for data and analysis on the performance of Rhode Island’s health care system,” something he says will resist both legislative and public understanding. of health care that is not based. in reality.

“I think the Legislature needs access to really good, timely data because a lot of our health care discourse in the state is driven by anecdotes and assertions, and they need to be more data driven so that we can tailor policies to address challenges, whether it’s in primary care or hospital financial performance, etc.,” King said.

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

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

“We may not always agree on politics, but he has always been a tremendous source of facts and data,” Ujifusa said.

Sen. Sam Bell, a Providence Democrat, congratulated McKee on the nomination. Unlike last year’s nomination of Richard Charest to lead the state department of human services, which Bell called “very bad,” the senator praised King’s efforts so far.

“Commissioner King has been one of the most meaningful leaders in the McKee administration in terms of substantive policy change,” Bell said, noting “King’s work in regulating health insurance companies — or at least the third that we are allowed to adjust.”

Bell praised King’s work to triple insurers’ investment in childhood behavioral health, but especially for easing “the really brutal hard-cap rule that has crushed our hospital budgets.”

Affordability standards in the state they have received national attention for their unique approach. The limits are intended to increase insurer investments in primary care and ultimately reduce health care costs at the consumer level.

“There’s still some work to do,” Bell said. “I would like him to be a little more critical of insurance companies in a number of areas. But I think he’s made really tremendous progress.”

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

King was OHIC’s director of policy from 2019 to 2021, then chief of staff from 2021 to 2022. He then began his service as acting commissioner. Tulane University went on to receive a master’s in public policy from Brown University in 2013.

King’s confirmation 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. In the Department of Health, Staci Fischer replaced interim director Utpala Bandy on March 28. Fischer is one of three incumbents remaining on the upper bounds of Rhode Island 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 salary portal, King’s salary for fiscal year 2024 was $133,918.

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