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What does Obamacare Mean for the Residents of Hawaii Island?

March 27, 2014 - 6:39am

Hawaii and the rest of the nation have spent the last few years wading through the intricacies of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. While the ACA has helped to expand benefits offered to our residents, many are still confused about how to sign up for health insurance. The March 31 open enrollment deadline is quickly approaching, and individuals who are not on Medicare, Medicaid, or receiving health insurance benefits from their employer, need to purchase an ACA health plan. Insurers have agreed that plans purchased on March 31, will be effective April 1, thereby immediately protecting individuals and avoiding the mandated penalty. The next open enrollment period begins Nov. 15, and ends Feb. 15, 2015 with the effective date starting in 2015.

Individuals, who earn $18,257 a year or less, qualify for Hawaii’s expanded Medicaid program. Individuals who make between that amount and $52,920, qualify for tax credits and reimbursements when they purchase a plan through the Hawaii Health Connector. The income limit for the credits is higher for larger families, with a family of four able to earn up to $108,360 and still qualify for a tax credit and reimbursement.

Although consumers have encountered technical difficulties signing up online, we encourage them to reach out to HHC’s Kokua assisters who are familiar with the process and can walk them through it; call 877-628-5076.

About 6.4 percent of Hawaii’s uninsured Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population meet the criteria to receive Medicaid coverage or subsidies when they purchase an approved ACA plan through HHC. In Hawaii County, more than 12 percent of residents are Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, and more than 22 percent are Asian American. This means that a large portion of Hawaii Island residents are likely eligible for subsidies to help offset the cost of health insurance, and only have a few days left to apply for coverage or face tax penalties. The penalty for not having the minimum required health insurance coverage by March 31 will be based on how many months an individual is uninsured, and will not exceed the monthly premium for the national average bronze health plan. The penalty will be calculated based on 1 percent of an individual’s adjusted gross income or $95 a person, whichever is greater. In 2015, that number goes to 2 percent or $325, and for 2016 and beyond that number is 2.5 percent or $695, adjusted for cost of living increases.

For more information about the ACA and how it affects you, visit the Hawaii Insurance Division’s website at cca.hawaii.gov/ins, follow @InsuranceHI on Facebook and Twitter or call 808-586-2790.

Gordon Ito is Hawaii’s insurance commissioner.

Viewpoint articles are the opinion of the writer and not necessarily the opinion of West Hawaii Today.