Thursday, February 6, 2014

House passes measure for state control of Hawaii Health Connector

The House Committee on Health passed a number of measures addressing transparency, accountability and sustainability issues nagging the Hawaii Health Connector since its start up. The Health Connector is the state’s enrollment portal for coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA).  The Connector was created to match low-income residents with subsidized health plans under ACA.

“I want to be clear that these measures are a work in progress and allows us to continue to establish a better framework and foundation so that the Health Connector can successfully move forward in fulfilling the goals of the Affordable Care Act,” said Representative Della Au Belatti (Makiki, Tantalus, Papakolea, McCully, Pawaa, Manoa), who chairs the House Committee on Health.

“Even as the healthcare landscape changes around us, we need to be able to respond to the developing rules and regulations to allow the Health Connector to move forward in achieving its mission.” 

The centerpiece for the package of amended and approved bills is H.B. 2529, H.D. 1, which converts the Health Connector from a private non-profit entity to a State agency and initially places it under the Office of the Governor.

“It says something about the importance we place on this agency and the work it does on behalf of the people of Hawaii when we place it under the direct auspices of the Governor,” Belatti says.

The bill also creates a task force whose primary goal will be to draft a request for waiver that will allow the State to be more innovative in its approach to fulfilling the requirements under the Affordable Care Act. A provision in the act allows for alternative approaches suggested by the states under unique circumstances.

“Given the low uninsured rate that Hawaii has enjoyed because of Hawaii’s groundbreaking Pre-paid Health Care Act, we believe that we have a good case to put before health officials in Washington D.C.,” Belatti said.

One of the more serious concerns of the committee was the current board’s inability to come up with a workable sustainability strategy for the long term. The creation of a sustainability fee would address some of those concerns over the next two years after federal funding ends in December 2014 and as the task force works on a more long-term solution.

The bill also changes the makeup of the Health Connector’s board of directors and who appoints its members, which include the Governor, the Senate President and the Speaker of the House under the proposals of the bill.

The H.B 2529, H.D. 1, along with other companion bills, move on to hearings in the House Committee on Consumer Protection and Commerce.

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