December 24, 2015

Hirono Encourages COFA Citizens In Hawaii To Utilize Extended Health Care Insurance Enrollment Period

Senator Mazie K. Hirono encourages eligible Hawaii residents from the Compact of Free Association (COFA) nations to enroll in health care coverage following the announcement that the enrollment period has been extended to February 15, 2016.

Earlier this month, Senator Hirono led a Hawaii delegation letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Mathews Burwell (http://1.usa.gov/1m8ddXl) to request a special enrollment period for COFA citizens in Hawaii due to the challenges experienced with the enrollment process on healthcare.gov.  Senator Hirono spoke with Acting Administrator for Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) 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. CMS today announced the special enrollment period with retroactive coverage.

“It is critical that residents from COFA nations have the ability to sign up for health care insurance to take care of themselves and their families. This extension is just the latest effort in our state's long-standing tradition of providing health care coverage for all,” said Senator Hirono. “I thank everyone who has diligently worked on this issue, particularly Governor Ige, my colleagues in the Hawaii congressional delegation, and especially Secretary Burwell and Acting CMS Administrator Slavitt for addressing the issues that Hawaii’s COFA citizens face during this transition. We will continue our efforts to facilitate the process to help these individuals and their families to make sure everyone has health care coverage. And while the enrollment period has been extended by 60 days, I am encouraging our Micronesian community to sign up without delay.”

“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 assistors 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 on the following link for the CMS guidance on the Special Enrollment Period for Compact of Free Association Migrants in Hawaii:

https://www.regtap.info/uploads/library/ENR_GuidanceSEP_HI_COFA_Migrants_122415_5CR_122415.pdf