By Phil Galewitz
Thu, Oct 10 2013
Hawaii, President Barack Obama’s birthplace, has the only online health insurance marketplace that has not yet launched.
Ten days after the Hawaii Health Connector was supposed to allow consumers and small employers to shop and enroll for coverage, officials are using paper applications and referring people to insurers’ websites to check prices. About 100,000 people are uninsured in Hawaii.
It is the only one of the 14 state-run marketplaces, also called exchanges, that has no major functions online. Oregon’s marketplace does not yet allow online enrollment, but consumers can shop for health plans on its website.
“The Hawai’i Health Connector apologizes for any inconvenience the delay in plan presentation has caused consumers who want to shop for health insurance in the online marketplace,” Executive Director Coral Andrews told a state legislative committee on Wednesday.
Andrews said the exchange was working through technical issues. She said she hopes the website will be fully functional by Oct 15.
Hawaii is one of five states, in addition to the federal government, that hired CGI Group to help build the information infrastructure of the exchanges. The federal exchange, which is handling enrollment for 36 states, has faced numerous problems since its Oct. 1 launch.
CGI was also hired by Colorado, Vermont, Kentucky and California, which each have an exchange that is functioning. The company, based in Fairfax, Va., did not return calls for comment. It won a $53 million contract in January to construct the Hawaii exchange.
The Hawaii exchange has an online “eligibility screener” to see if consumers are eligible for Medicaid or a government subsidy. But it has a form for consumers to fill out if they want to learn about their plan options. They may have to wait awhile for information, however.
“The Connector will contact you in the coming weeks after you have completed your application to inform you of your eligibility and plan options,” the website says.
Two health plans are selling products on the exchange - Kaiser Permanente and the Hawaii Medical Service Association, a Blue Cross Blue Shield plan.
One Hawaii lawmaker suggested Wednesday that the exchange should inform consumers on its website that it is still “under construction and not fully functional.”
Andrews replied: “That is a great suggestion.”
Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communications organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.