By Malia Zimmerman – HONOLULU, Hawaii — Just 574 people have signed up for the Hawaii Health Connector, about one half of one percent of the state’s 1.4 million people.
So far, the federal government allocation for each successful sign-up comes to about $348,000 — each.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie, one of the state’s most vocal advocates of Obamacare, predicted at a news conference Sept. 17 that the state’s 100,000 uninsured, plus thousands more, would sign up for insurance once the Health Connector launched Oct. 1.
The federal government allocated $200 million for Hawaii to establish the Obamacare health exchange, which has aired hundreds of commercials in print, on radio and on television.
The connector’s initial plan to become financially stable was based on registering the 100,000 uninsured, plus about 200,000 more over the next couple of years.
Coral Andrews, executive director of the Hawaii Health Connector until she stepped down Friday, said in early November her “team has been working around the clock to promote access to coverage, to assist with enrollment and to take calls from the interested residents.” She expected enrollment figures would climb as the Dec. 15 payment deadline for coverage, set to begin in January, neared.
The Hawaii Health Connector has had problems since it launched, despite spending $53 million on its website with private developer CGI Group.
The site failed to launch on time, users complained they tried for hours to apply for health care plans but the site froze and crashed, and people were unable to sign up or determine their eligibility for tax credits or other federal subsidies.
On Oct. 15, health-care plans available to local users and pricing information were posted online, but some users said the website’s problems remained.
Those familiar with the exchange system’s glitches said the enrollment figures still aren’t accurate because information entered into the system doesn’t always transfer correctly to health insurance providers. Consequently, insurance companies cannot process it, and applications can be submitted several times because of technical glitches. People checking out the exchange with no plans to sign up can falsely inflate user figures.
Hawaii’s website mirrors problems with healthcare.gov.
Some 29,000 people signed up for Obamacare in the first two days of December, according to the Obama administration, adding to October sign-ups of 125,000 through healthcare.gov and 80,000 through state exchanges.The administration’s goal was 3.3 million sign-ups nationwide through all exchanges by Dec. 31.
Incoming White House economic adviser Jeff Zients told reporters Dec. 1 that, after clearing 400 “bugs,” healthcare.gov is working about 90 percent of the time.
Meanwhile, millions of people — including 30,000 in Hawaii — will lose their health insurance because the plans do not meet ACA standards.
Avik Roy, a Manhattan Institute fellow and columnist for Forbes, said the administration estimated 78 million Americans with employer sponsored insurance would lose their existing coverage because of the ACA.
State insurance commissioner Gordon Ito asked insurance companies Nov. 15 to delay canceling their insurance plans for a year, but they are under no obligation to comply.
Ito’s request came just after President Obama announced Nov. 14 that insurance companies could delay for a year canceling private plans that didn’t meet federal requirements.
Tom Matsuda, the Hawaii’s Affordable Care Act director, will replace Andrews as interim executive director of the state connector until the board can find a permanent leader.
Matsuda has pledged more transparency surrounding the glitches.
The latest enrollment figure was announced Friday during a meeting of the Hawaii Health Connector board, about a week before the Hawaii State House meets for an update on the exchange’s troubles.