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Hawaii mulls $15M yearly for health insurance exchange

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 03:01 p.m. HST, Mar 26, 2014

Hawaii lawmakers are considering supporting the state's troubled health insurance exchange with up to $15 million per year.

It's not clear whether the money would come entirely from a proposed sustainability fee on insurers or general fund appropriations. The fee would hit insurers that aren't participating in the exchange.

Officials from the Hawaii Health Connector have said the nonprofit needs about $15 million per year to operate. It has enough money to last through the end of 2014 and part of next year.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee plans to consider the bill Friday. Its chairman, Sen. David Ige, said he needs to know how the exchange spent its federal funds before he will hand over any cash from the state.

"At this point in time, the question is really one of accountability," Ige said. "We would want to see an accounting of any funds they received from the federal government and how they were extended."

The exchange was established with $205 million in federal grants. It hasn't spent all of that money already. As of Friday, it has spent about $100 million, exchange officials said. But the federal government denied the state's request to spend the money on its operating expenses more slowly.

Far fewer people than expected enrolled in health insurance plans through Hawaii Health Connector, so the exchange has not collected enough revenues to be independently sustainable. There were 5,744 individuals enrolled in plans at the end of last week, according to the Connector's website.

"They had expected to serve 100,000 to 150,000 to even as many as 200,000 customers, and they are woefully below that level," Ige said.

The language was added to a version a bill (HB 2549) that has been working its way through Senate committees. It was added during a joint meeting of the Senate's Health and Commerce and Consumer Protection Committees last Tuesday, and the Ways and Means Committee was informed of the changes on Friday.

Starting in January, the state insurance commissioner would collect an annual sustainability fee of no more than 0.345 percent of medical and dental insurance premiums sold by insurers that are not selling plans through the Connector website.

Money collected from sustainability fees would be collected in a health insurance exchange special fund, which would be administered by Hawaii's Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.

Lawmakers who drafted the change did not immediately return calls for comment on Wednesday, a state holiday in Hawaii. Most state offices were closed.

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Lesher wrote:
$1,250,000 per MONTH? wow.
on March 26,2014 | 01:20PM
1local wrote:
lose money - take it from the lawmakers pension fund...
on March 26,2014 | 02:30PM
DiverDave wrote:
More money after bad. Typical Dems. The never admit a propgram is a failure and stop it. The only solution ever is to just throw more money at it. Waste, waste, and waste somemore!
on March 26,2014 | 01:57PM
st1d wrote:
latest revelation from obamadontcare: pay just the first month's premium and skate the next three months while receiving health care. result: the hospital/facility and doctors treating you while you were uncovered during the three months will have to pay the bills themselves.

aren't you glad congress did not read the bill before passing it?

on March 26,2014 | 02:17PM
headcheese wrote:
Hawaii could take the option to opt out and establish a single payor system in 2017. No complex web portal needed. No gatekeepers, no signups, no premiums, no insurance agents, underwriters or claims deniers needed. Business can compete on an even playing field with international businesses. Entrepreneurs need not suffer medical insurance costs when starting firms. With health care for all covered, no losses for hospitals. Better health outcomes and reduced costs.
on March 26,2014 | 02:42PM
Winston wrote:
And it's FREE! Yipee!
on March 26,2014 | 05:49PM
droid wrote:
If Obama had stood his ground and insisted on single-payer when he had the votes on Capitol Hill, our nation wouldn't be on the brink of a health care disaster right now. Because the private insurers have become so closely embedded in this process, it is now too late to reverse course and go back to a single-payer model. The alternative is a massive multi-billion$ lawsuit against the federal government by all private insurers who stand to lose by single-payer.

The moral of this story is be careful what you wish for. You just might get it. And now, our economy can no longer be propped up by wealthy investors since our national debt exceeds what we could ever pay. The President couldn’t over-rule Congress and issue an executive order if he wanted to. You can’t print more fiat money if there’s no one to front you the credit.

Look to Greece, Italy, Spain or even Cyprus for a foreshadowing of what is about to happen to the U.S.A.
on March 26,2014 | 11:40PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
Another tax on healthcare plans? That's their solution to pay for a health connector that can't support itself. If there's only 5000 people being served, why do they still need 15 million a year to operate? Cut back your staffing to adjust for the lower than expected income ... duh. Or are they saying it's going to cost 15 million whether they serve 5000 or 200,000 people? That's the unionized public worker mentality for you.
on March 26,2014 | 04:04PM
Solara wrote:
Boggles my mind to think that they're even CONSIDERING the support of the exchange when it costs SOOOO MUCH and serves so few!
on March 26,2014 | 04:55PM
jekat2003 wrote:
They've blown through $100 million dollars to help 5,744 thus far and they even have to think about spending an additional $15 million per year?


on March 26,2014 | 05:12PM
mijlive wrote:
stupid is as stupid does
on March 26,2014 | 06:28PM
false wrote:
Why donT people who prefer single payer just go live where they have it?
on March 26,2014 | 05:21PM
false wrote:
The Dem mantra... If it aint broke, let's break it!
on March 26,2014 | 05:23PM
localguy wrote:
$15 million a year just to run a website? What are our bureaucrats thinking? Find a competent silicon valley contractor like the ones who built healthsherpa.com in three days for a couple hundred dollars. No need for some over priced, bureaucratic company. Hire a small firm loaded with techy people who can get the job done right and quickly. http://www.wptv.com/news/national/george-kalogeropoulos-ning-liang-michael-wasser-health-sherpa-young-coders-build-site-in-3-days
on March 26,2014 | 06:22PM
AhiPoke wrote:
Great insight into how government thinks. They've spent more than $17k/person just to sign them up, not insure them, and they're probably calling it a success. Now they want to spend more than $2.5k/ person just to administer this program. Again, probably calling it a success. Remember, this is a program that the majority of Americans don't want. So now our local politicians are considering a $15M/year tax on the few lucky enough to have insurance they want. Assuming that at some point obamacare, possibly with $B's of taxpayer support, survives it'll be hailed as a huge success. What many supporters don't understand is that money doesn't just appear. Spending it on a flawed program means it' s not being spent on something more productive. At some point we will be accountable for the money spent.
on March 26,2014 | 06:42PM
Barefootie wrote:
Is it me or does it seem that only in Hawaii, our state legislature likes to throw money at businesses that can't seem to get their financial house in order, to stay in business? Why? The Hawaii Health Exchange has not shown any ablility to keep it's books in order or get their site working properly, to serve the people of our State and our legislature thinks in its infinite wisdom that throwing more money at it, will magically fix the inherent problems!
on March 26,2014 | 06:47PM
droid wrote:
Somebody knows somebody or somebody’s spouse is related to this business. Like everything else in Honolulu's “old-boy system” landscape. The state likes to chase away easier-to-keep-tabs-on local expertise because they have a locals are inferior complex.

That is the other side of the “brain drain” our politicians like to blame on “better opportunities on the mainland.” Just another day in the nei, folks.
on March 26,2014 | 11:47PM
da long wrote:
$17,000 just to sign up one person. This is insane
on March 26,2014 | 07:57PM
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