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Life Health > Health Insurance > Health Insurance

Hawaii exchange aims for Oct. 15 relaunch

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HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii Health Connector — Hawaii’s public exchange — hopes to start offering information about plans and pricing to consumers through its website by Oct. 15.

But Coral Andrews, the exchange executive director, said Wednesday that there are no guarantees.

Andrews told state lawmakers at a hearing that getting the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) exchange site running properly has been a fluid situation, with circumstances changing every day.

“We want to make sure that we’re doing it the right way,” Andrews said after testifying for more than an hour before a panel of lawmakers representing three House and three Senate committees.

The exchange site hasn’t been able to sell any insurance because of software problems. Consumers can’t see plans, even though a variety of options from two insurers have been approved for sale through the exchange.

Consumers can submit basic information using a web form, and the exchange promises to have someone contact them in a few weeks. As a workaround, some people are going directly to insurance companies to find out about plans, even though buying plans from insurance companies directly means consumers won’t be able to get tax subsidies or other help they might qualify for.

Andrews said the exchange is required by statute to have its insurance providers validate how rates and plans are presented to consumers before they’re rolled out publicly. She said testing on individual plans is complete, while testing on small business plans is ongoing.

Andrews said she knows the site didn’t launch the way officials wanted it to on Oct. 1, the start of open enrollment. But Andrews says she hopes the site will be more functional in the next couple weeks.

“We’re looking at where we’ll be by the 15th of October. I’m not saying that is the date, but we are working within that date,” she said. “We don’t want to go longer than that date.”

Andrews’ comments came at the start of an informational hearing to discuss implementation of PPACA, a law Hawaii has embraced. Hawaii was the first state to announce its intention to run its own insurance exchange, and the Hawaii Health Connector was established in August 2011.

The connector is funded through federal grants, with plans to become self-sufficient by 2015 by charging customers a 2 percent fee on plans sold through the exchange, Andrews said.

The exchange awarded a $53 million, four-year contract to CGI Group, Inc., earlier this year to build the marketplace. CGI also is helping to set up the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ exchange enrollment site.

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