A win for Micronesians in Hawai’i

As reported in the Honolulu Star Advertiser, Micronesian islanders in Hawai’i who are part of the group of Compact of Free Association (COFA) nations won a court victory to restore health insurance benefits several days ago:

A federal judge ordered the state yesterday to restore lifesaving health benefits to low-income legal migrants from Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau, a ruling that will cost taxpayers millions.

U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright issued a preliminary injunction requiring that more than 7,500 Pacific islanders receive health coverage equal to plans provided to Medicaid recipients.

The cash-strapped state had tried to save about $8 million annually by offering fewer benefits under a free plan called Basic Health Hawaii that went into effect July 1, but Seabright’s ruling ends that effort.

COFA islanders have a unique immigration status due to their countries’ relationships with the U.S.:

Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau are beneficiaries of the Compact of Free Association, a 1986 pact with the United States granting it the right to use defense sites in exchange for financial assistance and migration rights after it used the Pacific islands for nuclear weapons testing from 1946 to 1958.

While the state of Hawai’i has a large number of migrants from the COFA islands, the federal government has not fulfilled its obligation to cover the cost of health care for these islanders.  Many of the health problems faced by the Micronesians in Hawai’i are the results of U.S. policies in the northern Pacific: nuclear fallout and/or the disruption of traditional economies, lifestyles and diets that have caused new health problems.

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