Hawaii Health Connector executive grilled in D.C. hearing

Interim executive director of Hawaii Health Connector, Tom Matsuda, was grilled Thursday during a House committee hearing in Washington D.C. The hearing explored the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in various states that faced significant challenges, like Hawaii.

Earlier this week, the Hawaii Health Connector said less than 8,000 people selected plans before the deadline.

“I think that it’s important to put it into context,” Matsuda said during the hearing. “The issue for us, on the revenue side, is that because of the Prepaid Health Care Act, virtually all small businesses in the state already have insurance for their employees, so there’s very little incentive for them to leave a system that they’ve been accustomed to for almost 40 years. So I think it’s incumbent on us, looking at that marketplace reality, to try to reduce the cost of the operations of our system as much as possible.”

Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) is not a member of the committee, but was given special permission to participate because of Hawaii’s involvement.

“I believe we need to look at other ways to immediately address the fundamental issue of how the Affordable Care Act can work with our Prepaid Health Care Act,” Rep. Hanabusa said. “I have long said that we need to make maximum use of the exemptions the ACA makes available to Hawaii. I do not believe the Hawaii Health Connector has pursued those exemptions effectively, and that is something I hope they will address immediately.”

Matsuda says he is looking to apply for an exemption from the ACA under Section 1332, which provides for State Innovation Waivers, but that will not be available until 2017.

“While it has been estimated that Hawaii has 100,000 residents without insurance, the expansion in Medicaid coverage will only leave about 33,000 eligible for coverage under the Connector,” Rep. Hanabusa said. “But even if every one of those residents signs up for insurance through the Connector, it cannot sustain itself, and Mr. Matsuda acknowledged today that the Hawaii Health Connector will never be financially sustainable under the current model.”

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