Updated Guide to Hawaii Health Insurance

Hawaii has been able to provide affordable and accessible healthcare to a significant portion of its population. This article delves into the various aspects of health insurance in Hawaii, including its history, state regulations, available options, and tips on choosing the right coverage for your needs.

4/20/20234 min read

hawaii health insurance
hawaii health insurance

A Comprehensive Guide to Hawaii Health Insurance

Hawaii, known for its beautiful beaches, tropical climate, and diverse culture, is unique in many ways, including its approach to health insurance. With a distinct state-run health insurance system, Hawaii has been able to provide affordable and accessible healthcare to a significant portion of its population. This article delves into the various aspects of health insurance in Hawaii, including its history, state regulations, available options, and tips on choosing the right coverage for your needs.

I. The History of Health Insurance in Hawaii

The Prepaid Health Care Act

Hawaii has a long-standing commitment to providing quality healthcare to its residents. In 1974, the state passed the Prepaid Health Care Act (PHCA), a pioneering piece of legislation that mandated employers to provide health insurance coverage to employees working at least 20 hours per week. The PHCA has played a crucial role in ensuring that the majority of Hawaii's residents have access to affordable healthcare.

The Impact of the Affordable Care Act

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), enacted in 2010, further transformed the health insurance landscape in Hawaii. The ACA expanded Medicaid eligibility, created a Health Insurance Marketplace for individuals and families to purchase coverage, and implemented consumer protection measures. As a result, the uninsured rate in Hawaii has decreased significantly, making healthcare more accessible to residents.

II. Understanding Hawaii's Health Insurance Regulations

Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance

The PHCA requires employers in Hawaii to offer health insurance to employees who work at least 20 hours per week. Employees must be covered within four consecutive weeks of employment and cannot be charged more than 1.5% of their wages for their share of the premium. Employers must offer a plan that covers at least 50% of the employee's premium and provides coverage for hospital, surgical, medical, and maternity benefits.

Medicaid in Hawaii

Medicaid, known as Med-QUEST in Hawaii, is a state and federally-funded program that provides healthcare coverage to low-income individuals and families. Eligibility is based on income, household size, and other factors. Hawaii has expanded its Medicaid program under the ACA, allowing more residents to qualify for coverage.

Hawaii Health Insurance Marketplace

The Hawaii Health Connector was initially established as the state's Health Insurance Marketplace under the ACA. However, due to financial challenges, Hawaii transitioned to the federal HealthCare.gov platform in 2016. Residents can now purchase individual and family health insurance plans through the federal marketplace during the annual Open Enrollment Period, or during a Special Enrollment Period if they experience a qualifying life event.

III. Available Health Insurance Options in Hawaii

Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance

Many residents in Hawaii obtain health insurance through their employers. These plans are regulated under the PHCA and offer a range of coverage options, including Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs), Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs), and Point of Service (POS) plans. Employer-sponsored health insurance is often the most affordable option for employees and their families.

Individual and Family Health Insurance

For those who do not have access to employer-sponsored coverage or prefer a different plan, individual and family health insurance plans are available through the HealthCare.gov marketplace. These plans are grouped into four metal tiers: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum, which represent different levels of coverage and cost-sharing. Subsidies and tax credits are available to eligible individuals and families to help offset premium costs.

Medicaid (Med-QUEST)

Med-QUEST is available to Hawaii residents who meet specific income and eligibility requirements. This comprehensive healthcare coverage includes hospital services, doctor visits, prescription medications, and more. Med-QUEST is an essential safety net for low-income individuals and families who cannot afford private health insurance.


Medicare is a federal health insurance program that primarily serves individuals aged 65 and older, as well as certain younger people with disabilities. In Hawaii, Medicare beneficiaries can choose between Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) and Medicare Advantage plans (Part C). Original Medicare covers hospital and medical services, while Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private insurance companies and often include additional benefits such as prescription drug coverage (Part D), dental, and vision care.

Short-Term Health Insurance

Short-term health insurance plans are designed to provide temporary coverage for individuals who experience a gap in their health insurance, such as during a job transition or while waiting for coverage to begin under a new employer. Although these plans are not available through the HealthCare.gov marketplace, they can be purchased directly from private insurers. It is essential to note that short-term health insurance plans do not provide the same level of coverage and consumer protections as ACA-compliant plans.

IV. Tips for Choosing the Right Health Insurance in Hawaii

Assess Your Needs

Before selecting a health insurance plan, consider your healthcare needs and those of your family members. Take into account any pre-existing conditions, prescription medications, and the frequency of doctor visits. This information will help you choose a plan that provides the appropriate level of coverage and access to necessary healthcare services.

Compare Plan Options

Whether you're choosing from employer-sponsored plans or shopping on the HealthCare.gov marketplace, compare the various options available to you. Consider factors such as premiums, deductibles, copayments, out-of-pocket maximums, and network restrictions. Additionally, make sure to review the plan's Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) to understand the services covered and any limitations or exclusions.

Evaluate Provider Networks

It's crucial to choose a health insurance plan with a provider network that includes your preferred doctors, specialists, and hospitals. Before enrolling in a plan, confirm that your healthcare providers are in-network, as out-of-network services can result in significantly higher out-of-pocket costs.

Consider Cost Assistance

If you are purchasing health insurance through the HealthCare.gov marketplace, determine if you are eligible for subsidies or tax credits to help lower your monthly premiums. Additionally, if you qualify for Medicaid, explore the Med-QUEST program to access affordable healthcare coverage.

Seek Professional Advice

Navigating the complexities of health insurance can be challenging. If you need assistance in choosing the right plan, consider consulting with a licensed insurance agent or broker who specializes in health insurance. They can help you understand your options and guide you through the enrollment process.

Hawaii's unique approach to health insurance has resulted in increased access to affordable healthcare for its residents. By understanding the state's regulations, available options, and factors to consider when choosing a plan, you can make an informed decision that best meets your healthcare needs and financial situation. Remember to review your coverage annually, as your needs may change, and new options may become available.