The following "Letter to the Editor"  appeared in the Providence Journal on February 12th, 2004

Bring back choice in health insurance

I was happy, and not surprised, to see that state Health Director Patricia Nolan's main objective with the Health Plan Certification Rules and Regulations is to protect Rhode Islanders, as she stated in her Feb.5 Commentary column "Explaining R.I. health plan regulation, "written in reply to my column "R.I's health czars botched insurance "(Jan. 22).

We agree that the rules protect Rhode Islanders from fledgling and weak health-maintenance organizations (HMO's), from which they perhaps need extra protection. Furthermore, I'm sure that those who lived through the anxiety of wondering how their Harvard Community Health and Tufts claims would be paid when those health organizations left the state are particularly appreciative that this won't happen again in Rhode Island, thanks to these strict rules.

Perhaps we would also agree that, as other states with healthy health insurance marketplaces also recognize, the same rules ought not apply to the top rated national carriers -- organizations that have, in some cases, track records of over 100 years of insuring Americans. But Rhode Islanders no longer have access to these organizations.

Rhode Island Individuals and small groups want and deserve the same affordable healthcare choices that are available in other states. Rather than continuing to handle Rhode Island health insurance regulations as they have been handled in recent years and expect different results, or try something totally unproven, let's bring about positive change: Let's model our laws and regulations on those  of states that have had success in this area such as Illinois, Virginia and others.

Emily Harding