The Hawaii Department of Human Services announced today temporary emergency rules “that maintain the status quo for receipt of state-funded medical assistance benefits by noncitizens” in the islands — namely, citizens of the Republic of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

Those island nations are residents covered under the Compact of Free Association (COFA) and are allowed to live and work in the U.S. The temporary emergency rules are in effect for up to 120 days and can be reviewed here.

The announcement comes in response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling this week that denied an appeal to three Micronesians in Hawaii seeking full state-funded health benefits. Hawaii officials have complained that the costs to help Micronesians are beyond the state’s resources.

Meanwhile, Director Patricia McManaman said in a press release today that “because access to healthcare is such an important issue and affects so many of Hawaii’s residents, I am taking the opportunity to clearly state the facts.”

Here they are:

  • Noncitizen children and pregnant women receive Medicaid benefits, and therefore they are not and never have been the subject of the Korab lawsuit, and they are not and never have been at risk of losing their Medicaid benefits.
  • Noncitizen aged, blind or disabled individuals currently receiving state-funded medical assistance will continue to receive the same benefits without interruption.
  • Under the emergency rules, noncitizens who are not aged, blind or disabled and who are currently receiving state-funded medical assistance will continue to receive this assistance through February 28, 2015.
  • To avoid a gap in coverage and obtain health insurance beginning March 1, 2015, noncitizens who are not aged, blind or disabled and who are currently receiving state-funded medical assistance will be required to choose a health plan through the Hawaii Health Connector by February 15, 2015. To facilitate this process, DHS will transfer eligibility information to the Connector.
  • Certain low income noncitizens enrolled in a health plan through the Connector may receive state-funded premium assistance.
  • DHS has drafted proposed administrative rules to replace the temporary emergency rules and will hold a public hearing, as required by law, to ensure that the public has the opportunity to review and comment on the rules.
  • Individuals affected by the temporary emergency rules and the proposed administrative rules will receive written notices that provide more detailed information.

“My intent has always been to ensure that all of Hawaii’s needy residents receive healthcare benefits,” McManaman said. “The emergency rules and the proposed administrative rules will do this.”

McManaman anticipates a “substantial annual savings” after the administrative rules are adopted.

Duke Aiona Homeless Kakaako

Republican gubernatorial candidate Duke Aiona talked to an immigrant family from Chuuk at Kakaako Gateway Makai Park on June 16.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

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