Hawaii health care exchange registers new users


As of the close of business Friday, Hawaii’s online health care exchange had registered a total of 574 enrollments for new health care insurance plans, according to Hawaii Health Connector spokesman Bobby Lambrix.

Much like the national online marketplace, the state site has experienced delays and technical glitches that have served to impede individuals looking to purchase health plans before the Dec. 23 federally mandated deadline under the Affordable Care Act. Initially slated to be available to the public Oct. 1, the Hawaii site was not operational until Oct. 15.

Despite the relatively low number of enrollees with only 13 days to go, Lambix said it shows that Hawaii’s uninsured citizens are getting the message that the site continues to improve, clearing the path for them t0 enroll.

“On Nov. 15, there were 257 enrollments, and Nov. 22 there were 340 total. Last week they had 574. It’s growing,” he said.

Lambrix could not say Monday how many enrollments Health Connector officials had anticipated by the end of the open enrollment period, but he did say that the ultimate goal is to insure all of the state’s uninsured residents — estimated to total about 100,000.

Standing at 10.1 percent, Hawaii Island had the largest ratio of uninsured residents in the state, according to the State of Hawaii 2012 Primary Care Needs Assessment study. By comparison, Honolulu has 6.1 percent uninsured, Maui County has 8.8 percent, and Kauai County has 9.1 percent.

In addition to the technical difficulties the Health Connector has dealt with, the insurance exchange has also experienced a leadership shake-up, with Executive Director Coral Andrews announcing last month her intention to resign effective Dec. 6.

On Monday, Interim Executive Director Tom Matsuda, the state’s former Affordable Care Act implementation manager, took the reins at the Health Connector as its board works to find a permanent director, according to a Monday press release.

“I’m committed to devoting my full attention and energy to continuously improve the Connector,” Matsuda was quoted as saying. “Although the Connector has made major strides forward in comparison to some of the other state marketplaces, we have more room for improvement. The Connector team will continue to focus on ongoing process improvements, and I will be responsible for keeping all of our stakeholders apprised of our progress on a regular basis.”

Email Colin M. Stewart at cstewart@hawaiitribune-herald.com.