Categorized | Health

Hawaii Health Connector receives $61.8M federal grant


The Hawaii Health Connector has received a $61.8 million grant for Hawaii’s health insurance exchange from Department of Health and Human Services.

Hawaii was the first state in the nation to declare its intent to set up a state-certified health insurance exchange and its Congressional delegation, headed by Sen. Daniel Inouye, has been in the lead of the national effort.

Inouye said the grant helps the Hawaii Health Connector’s mission of “making health insurance available to everyone in need by making the application process easier and less expensive…”

The grant will allow the Connector to meet several new milestones including multi-cultural community outreach, language access, customer relations management, information technology training and operations.

The exact amount of the grant is $61,815,492.

“The successful establishment of the Hawaii Health Connector is part of our New Day Plan in transforming healthcare in Hawaii,” Gov. Neil Abercrombie said. “This grant is an important part of our health care transformation priorities in implementing the Affordable Care Act.”

Statewide community outreach efforts are underway to share information about the launch of the online health insurance marketplace scheduled for January 2014.

The Connector’s community outreach team is soliciting input statewide and throughout all communities, and is receiving feedback that there is a need for greater access to affordable health insurance coverage for both small businesses and individual consumers.

“The granting of these dollars is an affirmation on just how far our state has travelled on the vision for universal health care for all our island people,” said Hardy Spoehr, Hawaii Health Connector’s board chair. “The board wishes to express its gratitude for the hard work of everyone involved, especially the Governor and his staff for pursuing a health vision based on the Hawaiian values of aloha, kokua and laulima.”

“We are extraordinarily pleased to receive this notice of grant award from Department of Health and Human Services. These funds will continue to support the establishment of Hawaii’s health insurance exchange,” said Coral Andrews, executive director for the Hawaii Health Connector. “It signals their confidence in the work that is underway in Hawaii to implement a state-certified health insurance exchange.

“We are focused on meeting the aggressive deadlines that are in front of us and remain committed to meeting the needs of Hawaii’s residents.”

The Hawaii Health Connector is the online health insurance exchange for Hawaii. The Connector was established as a non-profit organization in 2011 by the state legislature through Act 205, in order to comply with the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) of 2010.

The Connector’s aim is an online marketplace that is Hawaii-for-Hawaii, one that takes into account the State’s unique culture and works with the Prepaid Health Care Act, an employer mandate for health insurance coverage in effect since 1974.

During the 2011 legislative session, Senate Bill (SB) 1348 relating to the Hawaii Health Insurance Exchange received strong bipartisan support. On July 8, 2011, Governor Neil Abercrombie signed into law Act 205 (SB 1348, CD1) establishing the Hawaii Health Insurance Exchange Act. The Hawaii Health Connector (Act 205) provides the framework for a private, nonprofit quasi-governmental health insurance exchange that conforms to the requirements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) of 2010.

The Act also established an interim board of directors, appointed by the Governor to provide the guidance in which the establishment of the Connector was founded. Act 205 states that the Insurance Commissioner of the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) shall determine eligibility for the inclusion of qualified insurers and plans.

The Department of Human Services (DHS) will determine eligibility for applicants in the Medicaid adult and children’s health insurance program (CHIP). Act 205 was codified into law as chapter 435H, Hawaii Revised Statutes, establishing the Hawaii Health Insurance Exchange.

The Insurance Division of the DCCA applied for, and received, a Level I Cooperative Agreement to Support Establishment of the Hawaii Health Insurance Exchange in November 2011. DCCA in cooperation with the Connector is in the process of reassigning this grant to the Connector.

In December 2011, the interim board hired Coral Andrews as executive director to oversee the operational resources of the Connector, as well as recruit and hire the necessary staff needed to successfully implement the Hawaii Health Insurance Exchange. July 1, 2012, 15 permanent board members were seated. Hardy Spoehr is board chair for the Connector.

To date, the Connector’s staff continues to grow while working towards bringing transparent and affordable health care to the state of Hawaii.

Congressional Delegation comments

Sen. Daniel K. Inouye: “As our population ages and health care costs increase we must continue to transform and expand our nation’s health care system to ensure all Americans have easy access to affordable, quality medical care. This grant will help the Hawaii Health Connector with its mission of making health insurance available to everyone in need by making the application process easier and less expensive while guiding customers through the network of available private and public health plans. The Hawaii Health Connector is yet another example of an initiative created by the Affordable Care Act to improve access and health outcomes in America.”

Sen. Daniel K. Akaka: “The Hawaii Health Connector is at the front of the pack of the new state-run exchanges created under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. The exchanges will help millions of Americans without employer-sponsored health insurance get coverage at a competitive rate. I applaud Gov. Abercrombie and the Hawaii Health Connector for moving forward, even in the midst of uncertainty at the U.S. Supreme Court. With their commitment and hard work, this $61 million federal grant puts Hawaii in position to continue being a national leader in health care.”

U.S. Rep. Mazie K. Hirono: “Today’s federal investment in the Hawaii Health Connector shows that Hawaii is leading the way in providing more health options and access,” said Congresswoman Mazie K. Hirono, a member of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce. “The federal Affordable Care Act builds on the guaranteed coverage of Hawaii’s Prepaid Healthcare Act, which I fought to protect when Congress debated health care reform in 2009. With help from today’s investment, in 2014 the Connector will be online to help Hawaii families and businesses shop for a health plan that meets their needs and get tax credits for health coverage.”

U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa: “The Hawaii Health Connector serves as a great companion to our Prepaid Health Care law because it will help ensure that all of our residents have access to quality, affordable health insurance. This grant will provide individuals and small businesses with access to federally qualified health plans that best fit their needs, while reducing the number of Hawaii’s uninsured. I would like to thank the Obama Administration for its continued commitment to building stronger and healthier communities.”

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