Concerned about the dissolution of the Affordable Care Act, Hawaii lawmakers are introducing bills to merge into state law the customer protections they consider to be the most useful parts of the federal program.
The bills seek to guarantee insurers never deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions, institute lifetime maximums for coverage or strip some of the added benefits such as pregnancy care that had been mandated by the federal act.
“Before the Affordable Care Act, a very sick child could use up all their lifetime benefits within days or months,” stated Rep. Della Au Belatti, chairwoman of the House Health Committee.
Since the Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2010, about 54,000 individuals in the state gained coverage, according to the federal Department of Health and Human Services. Nationwide, more than 10 million people had coverage via the act, the department stated.
Because of the rapidly shifting discussion in Washington, several state lawmakers around the nation are grappling with what type of bills to introduce to preserve components of the Affordable Care Act.
The Hawaii bills, introduced in the House and Senate, each integrated a mandate that people buy insurance coverage – part of the federal law that encouraged healthy, young people to sign up, providing a funding source for the sicker individuals insurance companies have been forced to accept. The Senate bill was amended Tuesday to add an income tax credit, which could assist people compelled to purchase health insurance coverage to spend on premiums. It is unclear whether or not there will be any federal funding readily available to reduce the expense for low-income buyers.
At a hearing on the Senate bill Tuesday, Hawaii Medical Services Association, the state’s largest health insurance company, offered concerns and comments on the bill but didn’t help or oppose it. The organization pulled out of the employer side of Hawaii’s health exchange in 2014 complaining about technical challenges at what was then a state-run exchange. It also, along with Kaiser Permanente Hawaii, has blamed some quarterly losses on expenses associated with the Affordable Care Act.
The bills, introduced in the House and Senate, also seek to enable young people up to age 26 to remain on their parents’ health insurance coverage and to guarantee that women are not charged more than men for insurance coverage.