Despite criticism, Hawaii Health Connector works for small business owner

Stephen Nii is the fourth generation operator of Nii Superette in Waipahu. Despite criticism of Hawaii Health Connector, Nii says for him, it could mean a savings of 20%.

“Any small business needs to do its best to save money and with Hawaii Health Connector, being a small business made many of our employees help us to qualify for a large tax credit,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa had tough questions last week for Tom Matsuda, interim director of Hawaii Health Connector, after the state essentially paid $57 million to enroll less than 8,000 people. One of the reasons for the low enrollment — Hawaii enacted a pre-paid health care act 40 years ago. Employers have had to pay all or part of their employees health insurance premiums.

Nii shopped around for his 13 employees insurance before he went to Hawaii Health Connector.

“Looking at the plans that I’m offering, actually there’s more coverage than we were able to offer before for possibly less price so, once again, why shouldn’t we go for it?” Nii said.

The quiet country store has eight full-time and five part-time employees. All have their insurance premiums paid 100 percent by Nii.

“I’m glad that my manager, or the owner, Mr. Nii, gave us the health insurance, good health insurance,” said Nii employee Madalene Sarabia.

In a statement, Rep. Hanabusa said Hawaii’s pre-paid health care act does not mesh well with the Affordable Care Act.

But for small business owner Stephen Nii, Hawaii Health Connector means more money for his bottom line at this unique store.

“Nii Superette serves the community and, as you can kind of see in the background, one of the things that my uncle brought in was bulk animal feed products which, like I said, there are more chickens than people in Waipahu, so it’s very important that we have that to sell to our customers,” Nii said.

Because of that service to the community, Nii believes Hawaii Health Connector is vital to small businesses.

“It’s an important advantage that we’ve never had before, so we need to take advantage of it before it gets taken away,” Nii said.

The Hawaii Health Connector got off to a slow start with a number of glitches. The pros and cons are still being debated by numerous people.

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