HMSA CEO: State needs to dismantle Hawaii Health Connector

HMSA Pres. says state needs to dismantle health connector

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The head of Hawaii's largest health insurance company says the system doesn't work and cost too much and wants the state to get out of the health insurance business.

"Hawaii's situation is unique," says Michael Gold, President and CEO of HMSA in a written statement, "Thanks to our current insurance laws, which have been in place for more than 40 years, all Hawaii companies must provide health insurance for employees who work more than 20 hours a week. The cost to keep the Hawaii Health Connector open, as a place for businesses to buy health insurance, far outweighs the benefits."

Gold wants the state to get an exception to the Affordable Care Act that would get rid of the health exchange.

Lawmakers agree that the scope of it needs to be downsized, and that's something they have already been working on.

State House Representative Angus McKelvey says Gold's comments make it sound like lawmakers aren't doing anything when, in fact, they passed a bill to start the waiver process.

"Well, I for one did not see Mr. Gold at any of the numerous hearings and briefings on the Connector, nor did any of the HMSA participants question the route or the line of questioning that were being asked," says McKelvey.

The chair of the House Committee on Consumer Protection and Commerce believes the timing of Gold's statements are motivated by profits.

"It seems very strange to me that at the same time HMSA is asking for a rate increase of nearly 13%; at the same time that the bill removing HMSA from the board is going to the Governor for his signature, that HMSA now suddenly questions the need for a health exchange, an exchange that HMSA sits on and has been involved in from day one. It's very problematic, but suggests that we should take a closer look at what's really driving the cost of health care here in Hawaii."

Strict rules of the Affordable Care Act prevent changes to the exchange system until 2017.  State lawmakers hope to get the waiver sooner.

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