HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Key provisions of President Obama's health care reform package kicked in Thursday, and Hawaii health care executives said they thought it would be good for medical care in the islands.
"We're ready for the changes, and we think they'll improve coverage and might even reduce some medical costs," said Mike Stollar, a vice president with HMSA. "We're supportive."
HMSA is the Blue Cross provider for the state, and insures two thirds of Hawaii residents. Several Blue Cross providers on the mainland have also come out in support of what has come to be nicknamed Obamacare.
"The new provisions will be especially good for children," said Dr. Virginia Pressler, senior medical executive for Hawaii Pacific Health, parent company of the state's Straub, Kapiolani and Wilcox medical centers.
"Insurers will no longer be able to deny coverage to children because of pre-existing conditions, and parents can keep grown-up children on their plans to the age of 26, when many young adults are looking for work and often go without coverage."
Several private sector insurance companies face lower profits from health care reform and have opposed most aspects of the plan, and members of Congress who back their stand hope to roll back Obamacare if Republicans retake control of Congress.
Hawaii's senators Dan Inouye and Daniel Akaka, both Democrats, support the reforms and played a role in shaping them. One measure that came from the Hawaii delegation provides federal aid to hospitals that treat a lot of Medicare patients, for whom payments typically do not cover costs. This could provide roughly $100 million to Hawaii hospitals over the next eight years.
The plan allows Hawaii to keep its own law requiring health care coverage for employees of all but the smallest businesses. The law is a significant cost factor for some companies, but hotels and other businesses have found that health coverage makes it easier to hire part-time workers, many of whom do have not medical coverage in their other jobs.
The cost of health care has been soaring for years, usually at several times the overall pace of inflation. Health care executives attribute some of that to the cost of better care - new miracle drugs and scanners - but also note that companies across the country have found new ways to use outside contractors instead of outright employees, increasing the number of people working without health coverage.
This can be an important factor in the health care business model because premiums for younger, healthier people subsidize the costs of caring for older people with more medical issues.