In a worrisome measure of need, half of Hawaii’s keiki are now on Medicaid

Published: Sep. 29, 2021 at 5:38 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - While unemployment claims have decreased in the islands, the number of Hawaii residents on government-subsidized health care continues to rise.

Half of all the children in Hawaii are now on Medicaid, new figures show.

Since March 2020, when the pandemic began, more than 100,000 people have signed up for coverage. In Honolulu, a total of 257,870 residents are on Medicaid now ― a 30% increase.

Medicaid enrollment by county
Medicaid enrollment by county(HI Department of Human Services)

Here’s a look at enrollments across the Neighbor Islands:

  • The Big Island has 86,612 people on the program, a 24% increase.
  • Kauai saw a 33% growth and currently stands at 25,725 people.
  • Maui County saw the biggest growth percentage, 36%, and stands at 54,373.

While Medicaid enrollments grow, unemployment claims have dropped off.

Anne Perreira-Eustaquio, director of the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, said the decrease was due to reopenings earlier this year.

Additionally, federal unemployment aid ended this month so many people no longer qualified.

She said the increase in Medicaid enrollments is due to people “looking for assistance to pay their bills, to make it, to be able to provide for their family.”

“They might work part time, they might not have access to health insurance,” added Judy Mohr Peterson, administrator of the Med-QUEST program.

“Their job might not offer it because they don’t have enough hours so there’s lot of reasons as to why families would continue to need Medicaid.”

Peterson said the rise in enrollment did come with more federal funding to help ease the burden on states. There are also rules that make it harder for people to lose Medicaid eligibility during the health emergency.

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