Coral Andrews, Hawaii Health Connector Executive Director
Coral Andrews, Hawaii Health Connector Executive Director

BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – HONOLULU — Officials claim that, the online Obamacare exchange designed to provide individuals and small businesses with information about health care plans, federal subsidies and tax credits, is now fully operational. But that wasn’t the case yesterday for some who tried to log on.

The website went live Oct. 1 after a great deal of media hype, but for two weeks, the exchange had no information on the 95 health insurance plans it would eventually offer, including pricing.

Some individuals and businesses contacted insurance companies directly, and were issued the same plans, but they couldn’t apply for the tax credits or federal subsidies by not going through the exchange.

Coral Andrews, executive director of the Hawaii Health Connector, said the exchange’s website was fully operational as of 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.

But while some consumers were able to view the information on plans and pricing, others continued to receive an error message that read: “This website is temporarily unavailable, please try again later” or were greeted by a blank page.

During the 22-minute press conference, Andrew wouldn’t provide the media with an update on how many individuals or small businesses from Hawaii had registered for Obamacare since Oct. 1.

The exchange’s public relations firm announced on Oct. 2 that 20,000 people had logged onto the website on the first day, that operators took 1,257 calls and 1,181 residents completed applications.

Andrews also didn’t disclose the number of people the exchange needs to sign up to be financially self sufficient by 2015.

There are 100,000 uninsured people in Hawaii, around 8 percent of the population, and Hawaii Health Connector hopes to capture that market.

Health insurance providers pay a 2 percent fee to the exchange for any plan secured through it.

Those familiar with Hawaii Health Connector’s initial budget said some 300,000 individuals need to sign up to make the nonprofit self sufficient by 2015 or state taxpayers will likely be subsidizing the $200 million-a-year operation.

Andrews would only say the state Legislature “in its wisdom” established Hawaii Health Connector as a nonprofit, which provides a number of options for meeting the federal self sufficiency mandate.

Hawaii Healthcare Connector plans to partner with 34 agencies, at least one on every island, that will in turn help individuals and small businesses get registered for health care, tax credits and federal subsidies.

Andrews didn’t offer reporters an updated figure on the number of agencies with which they had secured contracts.