Ilook forward to returning to Maui later this month for the Maui Chamber of Commerce's annual Installation Luncheon, where I will be pleased to report on the status of our local economy and healthcare transformation.
The state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) is predicting that our local economy is strong and will continue to strengthen through next year.
Hawai'i's unemployment rate has once again improved--down 20 percent from a year ago--indicating that our efforts to put Hawai'i's people back to work are succeeding. The state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 4.9 percent in April--down from 6.1 percent in April 2012.
HAWAI‘I HEALTH CONNECTOR
For the island of Maui, the news was even better, with unemployment improving to a non-seasonally adjusted rate of 4.8 percent in April--likewise, down from 6.1 percent a year prior.
Another welcome sign of our improving economy was last month's Council on Revenues revised forecast, which reaffirmed its previous General Fund tax revenue projection for the current fiscal year, as well as increased its projections for the next three fiscal years. The projections include tax revenue growth by 8 percent in 2014 and 7 percent in 2015, which would mean $86 million more revenue over the next biennium.
Hawai'i's healthcare transformation is also gaining similar positive momentum. Last week, the State of Hawai'i and the Hawai'i Health Connector received the next stage of approval from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to launch our state's new online health insurance marketplace.
When launched on Oct. 1, the online marketplace will serve as a convenient, one-stop resource for eligible individuals, families and small businesses to browse and purchase health insurance. It will be the only place where individuals and small businesses can qualify for tax credits, subsidies and cost-sharing reductions, in accordance with the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The state Department of Human Services (DHS), which will determine eligibility for Medicaid and federal subsidies for purchasing health insurance, is implementing a state-of-the-art eligibility system, integrated with the Connector, that includes an online application.
The Governor's Office, DHS, the Office of Information Management and Technology and other state agencies are continuing to work with the Connector and federal officials to ensure that Hawai'i is ready for open enrollment through its online marketplace beginning Oct. 1. Plans purchased through the Connector will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014.
This is an important step in our progress to transform healthcare in Hawai'i. Every resident deserves a good, equitable system of healthcare, and this new online marketplace requires insurers to offer better benefits and reward quality.
For more information, visit the DHS Website at humanservices.hawaii.gov/aca and the Hawai'i Health Connector Website at HawaiiHealthConnector.com.