Hawaii Health Connector online insurance marketplace set to launch
Hawaii's first online health insurance marketplace is just weeks away from launching.
It's expected to help and insure hundreds of thousands of Hawaii residents.
But some still have their doubts.
As mandated by President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, the program launches Oct. 1.
Health plans under the program go into effect Jan. 1.
An estimated 100,000 people in Hawaii do not have health insurance.
New federal mandates not only require insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions, but tack on more benefits such as coverage for prescription drugs and pediatric dental and vision.
Connector Executive Director Coral Andrews said 34 organizations, with nearly 200 of what are called "assistors," are in training to help people within their communities sign up for and benefit from the online marketplace.
Kokua Kalihi Valley's Dr. David Derauf said he already knows of some 4,000 patients of his facility who need health insurance.
"For many of our patients, the lack of health insurance means making a decision on a regular basis between buying medication and buying food, or paying rent, or trying to buy a birthday present for their child," he said.
Andrews said she already been surprised by who else needs coverage.
"Uninsured no longer has a face, it's a middle class issue," she said "In one group, with the board of realtors, two-thirds of the group raised their hands."
Still, critics claim the new initiative will drive up rates by increasing the demand for treatments while decreasing competition.
Only two insurance companies in Hawaii are taking part in the connector.
"This is just one part of what are the real focus must be, which is the health of our communities," Derauf said.
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