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Employer is on the hook for worker’s hospital bill

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Question: My son went to a hospital emergency room for a medical emergency. A few weeks later he received a statement from the hospital for the full amount, stating that his insurance had been canceled. He called the insurance carrier, who told him that his employer had not paid the premium for two months. He did not receive any notification of the cancellation, nor was his card denied at the emergency room. The employer has now sold the business. What recourse does my son have? Is he responsible for the charges, even though he was not notified of the cancellation of coverage?

Answer: Your son is advised to contact the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations’ Disability Compensation Division, which monitors employers to ensure compliance with the Prepaid Health Care Act.

We recently received a similar complaint about an employer who cut a worker’s hours to try to escape paying insurance (see

If your son had been employed at least 20 hours a week at the time of his emergency room visit, the employer would be liable for the hospital bill under the Prepaid Health Care Act, said Lisa Lemon, health investigator with the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs’ Insurance Division.

Call 586-9200 or send a letter to the Disability Compensation’s Investigation Section: 830 Punchbowl St., Room 209, Honolulu, HI 96813.

Any employer who fails to provide coverage as required under Section 393-24 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes is liable for health care costs incurred by an eligible employee during the period in which the employer failed to provide coverage, Lemon said.

Question: Who can I file a complaint with about a state worker, a custodian at a public school? He puts students, faculty and parents in danger and doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I can’t report this to the principal because he’s her pet. Also, if I report this, do I have any rights?

Answer: In general, the Department of Education says complaints or concerns should first be taken to the immediate supervisor.

Since that would be the principal in your case, the next person in line would be the complex-area superintendent, said department spokeswoman Sandra Goya.

You can also call the Department of Education communications office at 586-3232 or e-mail

Hawaii does have a Whistleblower Protection Act (Sections 378-62 to 378-65 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes) for employees who report violations or suspected violations of a law, rule, ordinance, regulation or government contract, unless the employee knows the report is false.

The law says "an employer shall not discharge, threaten, or otherwise discriminate against an employee regarding the employee’s compensation, terms, conditions, location, or privileges of employment" for making such a report.

If an employer retaliates, the employee can file a civil suit and seek damages within two years of the alleged retaliation.

Question: What’s going to happen to the old Honolulu Advertiser building?

Answer: The Gannett Co., former owner of the Advertiser, has been trying to sell the building and adjacent property at Kapiolani Boulevard and South Street for five years.

So far, no sale.

The city last assessed the value of the property at $16.5 million.

The new "Hawaii Five-0" TV series is using the property behind the former "News Building" for a sound stage and offices.

Write to "Kokua Line" at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or e-mail


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