Hawaii insurance firms launch campaign to counter misperceptions about Obamacare

WHAT TO DO: Confusion is running high as the time nears for the Affordable Care Act to get under way.
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WHAT TO DO: Confusion is running high as the time nears for the Affordable Care Act to get under way.

HONOLULU – Hawaii’s small business owners with 50 or fewer employees with existing health insurance coverage don’t need to make any changes when the Hawaii Health Connector launches Tuesday.

“The Connector is simply an option. There is no requirement that you must use the Connector,” said Reg Baker, chief financial officer for the Hawaii Medical Assurance Association.


He recommends small business owners “be patient” and see what their current plan provider and other health plans offer during the next few months before selecting a plan that fits.

Confusion is running high as the time nears for the Affordable Care Act to get under way.

The Hawaii Health Connector is running an aggressive media campaign directing small business owners to sign up on Tuesday with the federally funded insurance exchange to receive tax breaks up to 50 percent and other discounts on insurance plans.

But smaller medical insurance companies independent of the connector have launched their own media campaign to “set the record straight” on the misconception that it is a federal requirement to sign up with the Hawaii Health Connector. (See the advertisement here.)

The print advertisements, published jointly by the Hawaii Medical Assurance Association and the University Health Alliance, say there likely won’t be a reduction in premiums or substantial tax breaks for small business owners buying insurance through the Connector.

“The new federal fees and taxes mandated by the Affordable Care Act may actually cause your costs to increase,” an  advertisement published Friday reads. “The small business tax credit is limited to groups of 25 or less and even then the credit varies. You should compare overall costs of your current plan even if you are part of the small group that receives the tax credit.”

Baker said the insurance companies launched the print media campaign because the ACA, which “is a very complicated and comprehensive bit of legislation” that is 2,000 pages long and has attached 20,000 pages of regulations, has caused some confusion in the business community.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie last week announced the launch if the Hawaii Health Connector Exchangewhich will funnel people into Obamacare. The feds allocated about $128 million to fund the connector call center, website, assistance program and to pay for general maintenance and operations through December 2014.

A total of $200 million in federal funds has been allocated to the Hawaii Healthcare Connector. As it stands, however, just two providers, HMSA and Kaiser Permanente, are offering plans through the connector.

“There are many other options available that is not on the exchange,” Baker said.

Linda A. Kalahiki, chief marketing officer for University Health Alliance, said their intent in jointly publishing the public service announcement with HMAA is to inform customers that they won’t lose their coverage if they stay with UHA and that there is no requirement for employers to switch to the Connector.

“We are absolutely not against the Connector. Our primary focus is on our current customers, continuing to provide them with the highest quality care and service,” Kalahiki said.