Go after waiver now

The president of Hawaii Medical Service Association believes the state should immediately ask the federal government for a waiver to get out from under the burden of supporting the state’s health insurance exchange.

Michael Gold said in an interview Wednesday that because of the state’s Prepaid Health Care Act, the Hawaii Health Connector is not needed. Only about 9,000 citizens have signed up for insurance using the Connector. A minimum of 150,000 participants is needed to make it self-sustaining.

While the federal Affordable Care Act allows states to begin asking for waivers in 2017, Gold said the state should apply immediately because of the special circumstances of the Prepaid Health Care Act. Basically, the state law requires employers to provide health insurance for their employees, making the small-business portion of the federal law moot here.

Individuals could apply using the federal exchange or by going directly to the insurance companies, Gold believes. Either alternative would be significantly cheaper than trying to support the Connector, the HMSA president said.

Gold said Hawaii could easily fulfill all the goals of the Affordable Care Act without the cost of keeping its state insurance exchange open.

By applying for the waiver now, the state could save significant amounts of money in 2015 and 2016.

Gold said officials have been asking, “How can we make the Hawaii Health Connector sustainable?” He said the correct question is, “How can we get out from under the Hawaii Health Connector?”

Insurance exchanges may be needed in other parts of the country. But Gold believes Hawaii’s 1974 law makes the Connector an expensive, unnecessary burden here.

We’d urge state officials and our elected representatives to heed Gold’s advice and go after that waiver.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.