Hawaii residents, lawmakers frustrated with health connector glitches

EPIC FAIL: Gov. Neil Abercrombie with Coral Andrews, then head of the Hawaii Health Connector, at a Sept. 17, 2013 news conference, predicted hundreds of thousands of people in Hawaii would benefit from the exchange. So far just 3,614 signed up
article top
TO YOUR HEALTH: Gov. Neil Abercrombie announces the launch of the Hawaii Health Connector on October 1. Standing by his side is Coral Andrews, head of the Hawaii Health Connector

HONOLULU — Leon Hamili has no medical coverage.

So when HawaiiHealthConnector.com launched Tuesday promising coverage to people with pre-existing conditions under Obamacare, he eagerly went to the health care exchange to sign up.


Hamili, a former instrumentation technical applications specialist with the U.S. Department of Defense at Pearl Harbor, with his wife runs a small business, Hamili-Akina and Associates, in Waipio.

He spent 11 hours the first day and two more hours Wednesday trying to fill out an application on the exchange.

Hamili said connector operators told him he was one of many people continuously kicked off the system’s website.

The help-line operator on the first day had no advice for Hamili, other than to keep trying.

The second day, another operator told him about some glitches for people applying for federal health care subsides. The connector would send someone from one of its 34 community partner agencies to his home to help, he was told.

So far, Hamili hasn’t heard back.

Hawaii lawmakers plan a briefing Wednesday to look into problems related to the Hawaii Health Connector services.

Hawaii residents also are frustrated because the connector website has no information on the 95 medical plans that will be offered beginning Jan. 1, as Hawaii Health Connector previously advertised. Spokespeople for Hawaii Health Connector  would not answer questions on Wednesday about technical problems. Instead, the connector’s public relations firm sent a news release reporting nearly 20,000 people had logged onto their website on the first day, that operators took 1,257 calls and 1,181 residents completed applications.“We are certainly sensitive to the fact that many folks are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to enroll in health coverage,” said Coral Andrews, Hawaii Health Connector executive director.“Each individual and small business scenario is unique, so it is paramount that multiple scenarios must be tested to assure accuracy of plan and price information.”Reg Baker, chief operating officer for the Hawaii Medical Assurance Association, said the IT infrastructure supporting the Hawaii Connector is massive and complex, with many moving parts that interface with systems locally and on the mainland.

HMAA isn’t participating in the Obamacare network but rather will compete privately in the marketplace, as it has for 25 years, he said.

HELLO? Watchdog.org tried to contact some of the partner agencies Wednesday, including Li’s Translation services. No one answered the phone.

“It is disappointing but not a big surprise that the Hawaii Connector is not currently working as expected,” Baker said.

Andrews directed applicants to contact one of the connector’s partner agencies to sign up in person and learn about options.

Watchdog.org tried to contact some of the partner agencies Wednesday, including Li’s Translation services, the agency listed for residents living near the state Capitol, in downtown Honolulu, in Kalihi and other nearby areas.

No one answered the phone throughout the day, and there was no way to leave a message.

Watchdog could find no information about the company on the Internet. The owner is using a Hotmail account as the official email for the company.

Hawaii Health Connector also wouldn’t answer questions Wednesday about Li’s Translation Services, a company that will be trusted with applicants’ personal, medical and financial information.

Hamili’s company provided health care for its full-time employees as is required under Hawaii law, but when Hamili was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and given just 30 days to live two years ago, the couple had to lay off workers, and their small business medical plan with Kaiser Permanente was terminated.

Hamili and his wife re-applied for individual coverage with Kaiser; she was granted coverage, but he was turned down because of the pre-existing condition.

Hamili’s cancer is in remission, but he has undergone costly treatment and rehabilitation therapy.

Reach Malia Zimmerman at Malia@watchdog.org