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Hawaii Health Connector rushes to sign people up

By Cathy Bussewitz

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 1:41 p.m. HST, Mar 31, 2014

Hawaii's health exchange officials pushed to enroll as many people as possible Monday, the day of a key deadline under President Barack Obama's overhaul law.

The Hawaii Health Connector's customer support center was open until midnight over the weekend and is expected to stay open late again Monday night.

The deadline to apply for a health plan is midnight Monday evening. Special helpers were available on every island to walk people through the enrollment process.

Anyone who previously had problems using the website should try again, because the website's performance is improving, Health Connector officials said.

Meanwhile, Hawaii lawmakers weighed options to provide financial support to the exchange. Among the options is a fee on insurers who are not participating in the exchange.

In a hearing Monday, lawmakers on the Senate Ways and Means committee asked how federal grant money has been spent so far. They asked whether vendors who built the technology infrastructure for the exchange had been paid for substandard work.

"Is there any accountability to the original company that did the system?" asked Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland.

The board of Hawaii's exchange has delayed payments to vendors that did unsatisfactory work, said Kealii Lopez, who represents the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs and is on the Connector board.

"The connector is not going to pay for functionality it has not received," Lopez said.

Senators, who are considering financial support for the Connector, asked how much the exchange would need from the state to operate, but were told Monday that figure will not be available until after the Connector board of directors meets to hash out its sustainability plan over the upcoming weekend.

Exchange officials have said previously that the exchange has $15 million per year in operating expenses.

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