BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – Ten days after the Hawaii Health Connector was scheduled to be up and running, the Obamacare virtual exchange is still unable to provide users any pricing or other health care plan details.
During a 5-hour joint special House-Senate briefing yesterday, lawmakers sought answers and expressed concerns about the lack of progress the federally-funded exchange has made.
“I’m very concerned about that still, especially when they say the website is live when it’s obviously in progress,” saidRep. Angus McKelvey.
“It’s imperative that the Connector gets its site 100 percent up and running, including quotes for people to choose from. That would only be fair since there’s a mandate that people get health insurance now. People expect to make these decisions. People do want to know when they go shopping what things cost,” saidSen. Josh Green, a medical doctor from Kona who chairs the Senate’s health committee.
Hawaii Health Connector Executive Director Coral Andrews apologized to lawmakers and the public.
“We won’t stop working until the doors to HawaiiHealthConnector.com are wide open, allowing every resident of Hawaii to have access to affordable coverage,” Andrews said.
The web site went live Oct. 1, but those seeking health care coverage haven’t been able to review pricing or coverage information on the 95 medical or dental plans that will be offered, much less sign up for them.
Andrews said the website may be fully operational next week.
“The date we are working off now is the 15th of October. That doesn’t mean we will be going out to the 15th — it’s a very fluid situation where every hour, every day, we’re getting more information about the functionality,” Andrews said.
The exchange has had a host of other problems since its launch. Frustrated users have tried for hours to register on the site and complete the required paperwork, but complained they kept getting kicked off.
Andrews said the exchange has fielded more than 1,200 calls and taken more than 1,100 applications.
Lawmakers asked Andrews about her plans to make the exchange self funded in two years, as is required under federal law. The exchange received more than $200 million to launch and partner with 32 community agencies.
Andrews wouldn’t give details — or even a range — on the number of people who need to sign up with the exchange to meet federal requirements, saying she wanted to double check the figures.
Insurers pay a 2 percent fee on each premium secured through the exchange network.
Some 100,000 people in Hawaii are without health insurance, or about 8 percent of the population.
The Hawaii Health Connector’s budget reportedly shows that 300,000 people need to sign up for insurance through the exchange to be self-sufficient within two years.