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Malfunctioning websites still delaying Hawaii Obamacare signups

By   /   July 24, 2014  /   No Comments

SIGN HERE: Hawaii Health Connector sign ups improved Hawaii’s uninsured rate by 2.75 percent at a cost of $204 million, study shows.

By Malia Zimmerman | Watchdog.org

HONOLULU — The Hawaii Health Connector, has been unable to produce a fully functional website since it launched in October.

That’s especially troubling, because CGI Group got $53 million for its creation and another $20 million for operation and maintenance.

A separate $100 million web portal operated by the state Department of Human Services and designed by KPMG to connect Hawaii residents with Medicaid services, a requirement under Obamacare, has also been problematic, House lawmakers said Tuesday.

Lawmakers questioned connector and state officials about reports of residents unable to get insurance or being delayed after applying for subsidies and getting directed instead to the Department of Human Services’ Medicaid site, Kolea.

The two websites “didn’t play well together” as one lawmaker noted, leaving some 11,000 applications unprocessed.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Human Services said the news that their site wasn’t working properly was a “surprise” since as of June 2014, KOLEA has successfully processed over 70,000 unique applications and 250,000 individual requests for coverage. Kayla Rosenfeld, Public Information Officer for the Department of Human Services, said the Department will look forward to the House members providing more information so they can investigate.

The state’s chief information officer, Keone Kali, told House lawmakers at the Tuesday hearing that his department plans to create another more user-friendly site, a one-stop shop to process requests for health insurance and Medicaid.

Until the site is built, Kali is proposing a web link and page be added to Hawaii.gov web site, which houses information on all state agencies, to drive traffic to Affordable Care Act and Medicaid sign ups, which could be done at minimal cost.

“I’m really skeptical any of this you’re talking about is going to happen, but it is heartening to hear you say it’s going to be a low-cost portal,” said House Health Committee Chair Della Au Belatti, D, Makiki, who co-chaired the hearing.

The state’s goal has been to get at least 100,000 people – 8 percent of the population – to obtain health insurance through the Obamacare exchange. A state report estimated half were eligible for Medicaid.

After spending or allocating the majority of a $204 million federal Affordable Care Act grant, just more than 8,500 people signed up for health care through the exchange as of the spring deadline.

Tom Matsuda, the connector’s interim executive director, provided some updated enrollment figures, saying the connector and Medicaid sign-ups are at 43,746 as of this month, but he didn’t provide a breakdown between the two.

Hawaii has the fourth-lowest uninsured rate in the country.

Rosenfeld confirmed net Medicaid enrollment increased 12 percent or by 33,000 people between October 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014,

In total, about 320,000 of Hawaii’s 1.3 million residents are on now on Medicaid.

Just three other states ranked higher than Hawaii in terms of its uninsured population, including Massachusetts — 1.20 percent — Rhode Island — 5.60 percent — and the District of Columbia — 6.29 percent, according to a July 11 report by WalletHub.

Many people in Hawaii already had health insurance because of a 1976 Hawaii Prepaid Healthcare law, which requires employers to provide health-care coverage to their employees if they work at least 20 hours a week.

Belatti said she is concerned about the money the connector and Department of Human Services are spending on technology that isn’t working properly, and how the systems and the connector will be sustained going forward.

The Legislature allocated $1.5 million to the Obamacare exchange operations for 2015.

Matsuda said the connector will continue to seek ways to use the remainder of the $204 million grant set to expire at the end of 2014, as well as look for ways to reduce expenses and boost revenues.

The connector’s only source of revenue, besides government grants and subsidies, are fees charged to insurance companies, including a 2 percent sign-up fee for each plan booked.

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Malia Zimmerman co-founded the investigative news organization, Hawaii Reporter, in February 2002. Malia reports daily for KHVH News Radio 830 AM, a local Clear Channel station, and hosts a monthly inspirational television show on the local CBS affiliate called You've Got the Power. Malia has freelanced for ABC 20/20, People magazine, Inside Edition, Fox News and publications such as the Washington Times, Bangkok Post and the Wall Street Journal. Malia and the reporters who worked under her have won numerous awards for their investigative reporting.