Hawaii and the rest of the nation have spent the last few years wading through the intricacies of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
While the ACA has helped to expand benefits offered to Hawaii residents, many are still confused about how to sign up for health insurance. Monday's open enrollment deadline is quickly approaching, and individuals who are not on Medicare, Medicaid or receiving health insurance benefits from their employer need to purchase an ACA health plan. Insurers have agreed that plans purchased on Monday will be effective Tuesday, thereby immediately protecting individuals and avoiding a mandated penalty.
The next open enrollment period begins Nov. 15 and ends Feb. 15, 2015, with the effective date starting in 2015.
Individuals who earn $18,257 or less a year qualify for Hawaii's expanded Medicaid program. Individuals who make between $18,257 and $52,920 ($108,360 for a family of four) qualify for tax credits and reimbursements when they purchase a plan through the Hawaii Health Connector.
Although consumers have encountered technical difficulties signing up online, I encourage them to reach out to HHC's Kokua assisters, who are familiar with the process and can walk them through it. Call, toll free, (877) 628-5076.
Of Hawaii's uninsured Asian-American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population, 6.4 percent meet the criteria to receive Medicaid coverage or subsidies when they purchase an approved ACA plan through HHC.
In Maui County, more than 10 percent of residents are Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, and more than 29 percent are Asian-American. This means that a large portion of Maui residents are likely eligible for subsidies to help offset the cost of health insurance, and only have a few days left to apply for coverage or face tax penalties. The penalty for not having the minimum required health insurance coverage by Monday will be based on how many months an individual is uninsured, and will not exceed the monthly average premium for the national bronze health plan. The penalty will be calculated based on 1 percent of an individual's adjusted gross income or $95 a person, whichever is greater. In 2015, that number goes to 2 percent or $325, and for 2016 and beyond, that number is 2.5 percent or $695, adjusted for cost-of-living increases.
For more information about the ACA and how it affects you, visit the Hawaii Insurance Division's website at cca.hawaii.gov/ins, the division's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/InsuranceHI, follow @InsuranceHI on Twitter or call (808) 586-2790.
* Gordon Ito is the state insurance commissioner.