Rhode Island now requires all state residents to have healthcare insurance for themselves, their spouses and dependent children, effective January 1, 2020. If you do not have coverage, you may have to pay a penalty when you file income taxes. However, if your income is below the amount required to file federal income tax, you are exempt from the penalty. [For example, in 2019, a single individual does not have to file federal income tax if he/she earned under $12,000 for the year.] You are also exempt as long as you are incarcerated.
Before your release, a discharge planner will help you apply for Medicaid, a free health care insurance program that helps low-income families and individuals pay for health care costs. Once you get out, you should check to see if your application was accepted and pick up your official paperwork. You can go in person to your local Department of Human Services (DHS) office (See Appendix E for a list of DHS offices in RI) or call HealthSource RI at 1-855-840-4774
Once you are working, your income may disqualify you for Medicaid. When that happens, finding health insurance to pay for services and a primary care doctor to take care of your health needs can be complicated and sometime discouraging. There are resources to help you. We have provided several in this section.
BUYING INSURANCE THROUGH HEALTHSOURCE RI
Choosing a health insurance plan among the many that are offered can be confusing. HealthSource RI is the state’s official site to help you compare health insurance plans and find the most affordable one that is best for you. You can make an appointment at their drop-in center at 401 Wampanoag Trail, East Providence, call 1-855-840-4774 or visit their website: https://healthsourceri.com .
HealthSource also has ‘navigators’ or counselors in many community agencies (such as Amos House) throughout the state to help you choose a plan and fill out insurance coverage applications. The service is free and you can find a list of navigators in the appendix or call 211 to find help in your community.
You may also qualify for a tax credit to help pay for insurance depending on your household income. HealthSource RI can help you determine if you and your family are eligible for financial help.
Ordinarily there is a specific time period when you can apply for health insurance called ‘open enrollment’. That time period is usually from November 1 to December 15 each year. However, there are certain circumstances, such as being released from incarceration, that allow you to apply at other times of the year.
EXEMPTION/COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTERS
If you qualify for an exemption due to low income and do not have health insurance or Medicaid, there are nine Community Health Centers in Rhode Island with multiple locations that provide primary care for all patients regardless of age, income, or insurance status on a sliding-fee based on the patient’s ability to pay. Community Health Centers also provide language interpretation and translation, transportation, and case management. Some offer dental care and mental health services as well. Not all Centers may be accepting new patients. Call the site in your area to find out if they have openings and to schedule an initial visit. Proof of income may be required for discounted or free care.
You can find a list of community health care sites and contact information at: http://www.rihca.org/ To the right of the state map that you see on the website, click on the name of the community closest to you under the heading “Find a Community Health Center” for a list of community health center locations near you.
The RI Free Clinic at 655 Broad Street, Providence also provides free primary care, chronic disease management and behavioral health services to uninsured, working poor and low-income adults. The Clinic is a cost effective alternative to emergency rooms for uninsured residents seeking comprehensive health care.