HONOLULU — After getting $204 million from a federal grant to establish its own Affordable Care Act exchange, Hawaii’s uninsured population has been reduced by less than 3 percent.
In its 2014 Health Insurance Coverage Report, WalletHub noted 6.35 percent of Hawaii’s population lacks insurance coverage.
Approximately 2.75 percent of the population received health insurance through Obamacare during the past year, making Hawaii the state with the fourth lowest uninsured rate in the country.
Some 8,592 individuals enrolled in private health insurance plans under Obamacare.
Another 26,010 individuals enrolled in Medicaid between the summer of 2013 and April of this year.
In total, 28.01 percent of Hawaii’s population under 64 is on Medicaid.
Just three other states ranked higher than Hawaii in terms of its uninsured population, including Massachusetts at 1.20 percent, Rhode Island at 5.60 percent and the District of Columbia at 6.29 percent, the study showed.
Many people in Hawaii already had health insurance because of a 1976 Hawaii Prepaid Healthcare law, which requires employers to provide health-care coverage to their employees if they work at least 20 hours a week.
State Rep. Bob McDermott, R-Aiea, said Obamacare’s implementation in Hawaii has been an unmitigated disaster.
“Our prepaid health plan worked because we are an island, so companies could not move jobs to another state,” McDermott said. “If they did business here they had to eat it, so to speak. But it worked, and it was the price of paradise. No real competition, good care at a high price. The uninsured got (Med Quest) … so basically everyone had a health plan, if they wanted it,” McDermott said.
There was always a small group transitioning jobs, fired, or laid off, but that was only temporary and not a long term issue, McDermott noted.
Obamacare has added another layer of cost to the basic plan Hawaii had in place without adding value, McDermott said.
A May study by Kaiser Health showed Hawaii’s exchange costs the nation’s taxpayers about $23,899 per person, the most per enrollee.
Lawmakers estimate it will take 150,000 people to make the program self-sustainable.
Lawmakers set aside another $15 million a year of state taxpayer funds to sustain the exchange operations after the federal money runs out in 2014.
McDermott is one of several Hawaii lawmakers who say they are in favor of Hawaii seeking an exemption from the federal government for Obamacare.
“I am no expert on it, but I asked some of my legislative colleagues in the majority why didn’t we opt out? Their response is they don’t know. Privately, they say Gov. Neil Abercrombie dropped the ball. I am not so sure. I think the governor wanted the influx of the $200 million-plus dollars in federal funds to flood the economy during an election season … that is what I think. The poor judgment of accepting such a flawed program that added zero value to our citizens and does not make sense otherwise,” McDermott said.
U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, D-Hawaii, and state Senate President Donna Mercado Kim, D-Moanalua, also have suggested Hawaii seek an exemption.
Hanabusa said during an April 2014 congressional hearing that Hawaii residents are “frustrated and embarrassed” because of the low enrollment in the Obamacare exchange, and “very concerned” about how the $204 million federal ACA grant has been allocated and spent. Hanabusa noted she wasn’t in Congress when the ACA was passed, and said Hawaii has an exemption to the law because of the Hawaii Prepaid Healthcare Act, and said Hawaii should use it.
Former U.S. Rep. Charles Djou, R-Hawaii, is the only candidate running for Hawaii’s First Congressional District calling for a complete overhaul of Obamacare.
“Government must work to better the lives of our citizens, but Obamacare clearly fails this promised standard. Obamacare’s punitive costs and punishing demands hurt, not help, working people,” Djou said. “Hawaii should be exempt from Obamacare. We should enact sensible medical malpractice tort reform, permit the interstate sale of health insurance and expand the use of health savings accounts.”