Legislature Considers High-Deductible Health Insurace Option

Some of my friends and colleagues have been opposing bills which would abolish the Hawaii Health Authority (HHA). The HHA was established back in 2009 “to develop a comprehensive plan to provide universal health care in Hawaii.” Unfortunately, while the Legislature established the HHA, it and three different Governors have neglected to give them any funds for staffing, etc.

I believe those good people opposing Senate Bill 977, among others, are missing the forest for the trees. Abolishing the HHA doesn’t close the door on universal health care in Hawaii, but rather changes how the State might go about creating a plan.

And while they bird-dog the HHA issue, they have, neglected to pay attention to other, more damaging bills. House Bill 407 is just one example, that I became aware of myself just the other day.

The bill, Relating to Insurance,

Authorizes the issuance of employer-sponsored high deductible health. Requires maintenance of health savings accounts in conjunction with high deductible health plans. Requires the employer to fund deductible costs. Specifies that employers and insurers that buy or sell high deductible health plans remain subject to the Prepaid Health Care Act.

This is a bad, a dangerous bill.

Currently, Hawaii has no high deductible health care plans. In fact, I believe the State had previously asked for a specific waiver from the ACA partly to avoid having to create such a plan. But now, the Legislature is considering reversing course.

The bill’s upside would mean insurance premium cost savings for employers who opt for these high deductible plans. It also allows for the creation of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).

Put another way, the bill shifts health care costs from employers to their employees by requiring high deductibles. So, the hotel industry, for example, while doing gangbusters with high occupancy rates and higher room rates, wants to keep more of that money by cutting benefits to their employees.

Make no mistake, that’s exactly what this bill does. By reducing their premium costs, they are also forcing their employees to pay more out-of-pocket before their insurance kicks in. Sure, workers may save some money with the assistance of HSAs, but in the long run they will be paying more while their employers are increasing their profit margins.

Intended to makes people more discerning about why and how often they see their doctor, high deductible plans actually reduce positive health care outcomes for people. That’s because high insurance deductibles serve as disincentives for people to seek health care.

Only employers benefit from high deductible insurance plans.

Hopefully HB407 will become one of hundreds of bills that won’t make it to the finish line. Until then, I encourage you to take a look at the bill, spread the word, and do what you can to oppose it and others like it.

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