Health care enrollment extended for eligible Hawaii residents from COFA nations

Local News
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Gov. Ige announced Thursday that the state has negotiated an agreement with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to offer a special enrollment period for eligible Hawaii residents from the Compact of Free Association (COFA) nations who are seeking health care coverage through healthcare.gov.

The enrollment will be effective for up to 60 days from Dec. 18, and participating Hawaii health insurance plans have agreed to make coverage retroactive to January 1, 2016 to avoid any gaps during the special enrollment period.

The additional enrollment period was approved by CMS to address barriers to enrollment for citizens from the Compact nations — the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau — as a result of the state’s transition from a private non-profit marketplace to healthcare.gov.

“One of the most critical barriers to enrollment has been the need for increased interpreter services on the healthcare.gov call center for Hawaii residents from the Compact nations. Our outreach team – who joined us from the Connector and have deep connections in the community – continues to work closely with local assistor organizations to walk people through the process of re-enrollment,” said Rachael Wong, Director of Human Services.

Earlier this month, U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono led a Hawaii delegation letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Mathews Burwell to request a special enrollment period for COFA citizens in Hawaii due to the challenges experienced with the enrollment process. Senator Hirono spoke with CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt about how the call center hours and site maintenance downtime disadvantaged Hawaii’s COFA citizens because of the time difference and the need to approve certified language translators.

“This is truly a Christmas gift to those families who missed the enrollment deadline. On behalf of our Micronesian community here in Hawaii, mahalo nui,” said Josie Howard, program director for We Are Oceania.

“We are very grateful for the support and initiative from Senator Hirono.  It is great to know that we have leaders who understand the needs of the community and go the extra mile to address those needs,” said Dr. Emmanuel Kintu, executive director of the Kalihi Palama Health Clinic.

We Are Oceania has 11 certified kokua assisters who have been working non-stop to enroll COFA citizens in Hawaii. Each individual application takes between two to four hours to complete.

Kalihi Palama Health Clinic serves some 6,000 patients from the Pacific Islands. Of those, 3,500 are impacted by the ongoing enrollment challenges.Click here to see the CMS guidance on the Special Enrollment Period for Compact of Free Association Migrants in Hawaii.

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