Thousands in Hawaii eligible for insurance; HHC staff helping sign people up


With the March 31 deadline to sign up for health coverage looming, the Hawaii Health Connector announced Wednesday thousands of Hawaii residents could be eligible for no-cost health coverage or tax credits.

A report issued Tuesday by the federal Department of Health and Human Services found a total of 34,000 uninsured Asian Americans, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders in the state could qualify for the health care benefits.

Honolulu alone accounts for 25,000 eligible uninsured residents, according to a Health Connector press release issued Wednesday afternoon.

“We want to remind people that they may be eligible for savings on their health care coverage costs through the Connector,” said Tom Matsuda, Hawaii Health Connector’s interim executive director. “Our outreach staff and Kokua partners are actively assisting residents in completing their applications and signing up for coverage at community events and scheduled appointments.”

In a Wednesday phone interview from Honolulu, Health Connector spokesman Bobby Lambrix said Connector outreach staff and partners in their Kokua network have been busy reaching out to the affected populations across the state.

“(The benefits) could have a huge impact, especially considering the concentration of those ethnicities in Hawaii,” he said.

Connector staff and their partners have attended hundreds of community events this year. For instance, on March 8, the Micronesian Health &Wellness Resource Fair in Kahului costed the Connector to help community members from the Marshall Islands, Palau, the Northern Marianas, Guam and Federated States of Micronesia to enroll in health care coverage.

“So much of our outreach is centred on education,” said Connector Program Specialist Nikki Baysa. “We help people understand what resources are available to them when they’re looking for health coverage. Having Kokua, who are multilingual, is a great way to share the benefits with our diverse community here on Maui.”

As the March 31 deadline approaches, outreach staff and Kokua will be at dozens more events statewide. To access a complete listing of Connector events, visit HawaiiHealthConnector.com/Countdown.

The Connector’s Kokua network consists of various marketplace assister organizations in Hawaii, including the following ones which work specifically with the Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities:

• Pacific Gateway Center

• Li’s Translation

• The Sovereign Councils of the Hawaiian Homelands Assembly

• Ho‘ola Lahui Hawaii

• Ke Ola Mamo

• Ko‘olauloa Community Health &Wellness Center

• Waianae Coast Community Mental Health Center

• Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center

• Waimanalo Community Health Center

• Hui No Ke Ola Pono

• Ke Ola Hou O Lana‘i

• Na Pu‘uwai

• Hamakua Health Center

• Kalanihale

• Kipuka O Ke Ola

Hospital staff at Hilo Medical Center regularly work with patients to help them apply for such health benefits, said Hawaii Health Systems Corp. East Hawaii Regional Chief Operations Officer Dan Brinkman.

“Hawaii, in general, has a very good safety net. (A large percentage) of residents qualify for these kinds of programs. … What we find in the hospital is that we often have patients come in without insurance, and most of them we can help sign up and qualify for these programs,” he said.

Many clients qualify for programs such as Quest, aimed at helping low-income Hawaii residents receive medical coverage, but they just haven’t done it beforehand, he said.

“Many say they just haven’t gotten around to it, or they thought they wouldn’t qualify,” Brinkman said.

Email Colin M. Stewart at cstewart@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

 

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