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HMSA proposal to dismantle health connector draws mostly positive reactions

May 23, 2014 - 8:39am

Mike Gold, president and chief executive officer of Hawaii Medical Service Association, says that despite drawing criticism from some lawmakers in the past few weeks, he’s received largely positive responses since recommending the state do away with the Hawaii Health Connector’s health insurance exchange for small business owners.

“We haven’t gotten much flak,” he said Thursday. “I think things are moving in the right direction. People are starting to come around. … They’re seeing there needs to be more flexibility.”

Gold has been asking this month for state leaders to consider doing away with a service that taxpayers have spent too much for, and which provides insurance for people who were already covered according to state law, he said.

“We’ve already got universal coverage for Hawaii, at least when it comes to small business,” he said. “It’s just another layer of cost for something that doesn’t work.”

The state’s Prepaid Health Care Act, which was instituted in 1975, calls for employers to provide health insurance coverage for all full-time employees, paying for at least half of the premiums.

The HMSA CEO has argued the state should stop spending money to develop the Health Connector’s exchange which covers small business employer plans, opting out of the exchange in 2015.

“The exchange is a simple solution for individual enrollment,” he said, “but it gets much more complicated on the small group side.”

Of the insurer’s 13 percent increase this year in health plan rates, Gold said that more than 50 percent of that money is directly related to fees associated with complying with the Affordable Care Act.

“We’ve spent a considerable sum working on the Health Connector. … And they don’t really even have anybody enrolled yet,” he said.

In an editorial printed in the Honolulu Star Advertiser on May 15, state Sen. Rosalyn Baker, Rep. Della Au Belatti and Rep. Angus McKelvey said they were “troubled” by Gold’s call to dismantle the exchange.

“This ‘direct enrollment’ solution virtually eliminates competition in the marketplace by denying Hawaii businesses and residents the opportunities to ‘shop and compare’ and choose a health plan that’s right for them, leaving only the ‘big boys’ to dictate that choice,” the trio wrote.

“Having a robust SHOP (Small Business Health Options Program) is an essential element to the connector’s sustainability and allows employees and employers to compare plans to see what works best for them.”

Email Colin M. Stewart at

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