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Lawmakers consider converting nonprofit Hawaii Health Connector to state agency

By Kristen Consillio

LAST UPDATED: 5:19 p.m. HST, Dec 12, 2013

Lawmakers are considering turning the nonprofit Hawaii Health Connector into a state agency nearly two months after it fumbled the start of the new online insurance marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act.

Pressed by lawmakers, the Connector's interim executive director Tom Matsuda revealed that the organization needs to sign up 50,000 people -- 10,000 individuals and 40,000 small business workers -- this fiscal year in order to be sustainable by the end of 2014, when $204.3 millon in federal grants expire.

The group must sign up an additional 133,000 consumers in fiscal 2015 --  39,000 individuals and 94,000 workers.

So far the Connector, assigned to enroll Hawaii residents in medical coverage under by President Barack Obama's signature health reform law, has enrolled just 683 individuals in coverage as of Dec. 7.

Matsuda told House lawmakers in the Health and Consumer Protection and Commerce Committees that the Connector has spent $49.2 million and obligated $44.2 million in contracts not yet paid. Roughly $110.9 million in unobligated funds must be used by the end of next year or the state forfeits the federal grants.

The Connector, the state-based health insurance exchange designed to match low-income residents with subsidized health plans under Obamacare, was supposed to launch on Oct. 1 but did not go live until Oct. 15 due to software problems. Hawaii was the last state in the nation to go live with health plans on the exchange.

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