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State health exchange opens without plan specs

By Oskar Garcia

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 10:36 a.m. HST, Oct 01, 2013

Hawaii is starting open enrollment under President Barack Obama's federal health care overhaul without consumers being able to compare actual plans and prices.

Chief Marketing Officer Rick Budar of the Hawaii Health Connector told The Associated Press today that consumers will be able to apply for coverage, but insurers are still testing and reviewing rates in part to make sure they're shown correctly within the system.

Budar says he expects actual plans and prices to be up within the month, once they're approved by insurers.

"We are going to focus on making October the month of learning," Budar said.

Hawaii's insurance division said last month it approved 95 base plans under four tiers for the marketplace.

Laura Lott, a spokeswoman for Kaiser Permanente in Hawaii, said the exchange is waiting for approval from insurers because the software on the exchange's system isn't loading correctly.

"They are working on a fix on their side," Lott said. "They do have all our plans and all our rates."

When asked why the delay is happening, Budar cited the insurers' approval and public feedback that consumers don't want to sign up for plans right away.

Budar says he doesn't expect many people to purchase plans until December, with coverage starting Jan. 1, the deadline nationally for most Americans to have health insurance or pay penalties.

"I don't believe anybody wants to give their money early," Budar said.

Budar said the website has the same functionality as what consumers get by calling a call center or seeing an in-person assister to help them buy insurance.

Hawaii was the first state to declare its intent to run a state health exchange after the law passed, and the Hawaii Health Connector was established in 2011 as a private entity that answers to the Hawaii Legislature.

The exchange touted the ability to compare options on its website as recently as Saturday, and in commercials leading up to today's start of open enrollment.

"Visit hawaiihealthconnector.com and you'll find we have plans for you, too," a video linked on the exchange's homepage said this morning.

At 8 a.m. the site began allowing users to fill out personal information, with the promise that connector officials would contact them "in the coming weeks."

Fine print at the bottom of the website said the official online health insurance marketplace portal is currently under construction, and that the connector's website is informational only.

Nearly 8 percent of Hawaii residents don't have health insurance, according to 2010 U.S. Census data. Hawaii's exchange, citing data from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, says nearly 90,000 uninsured Hawaii residents will be eligible for coverage under the new marketplace.

Hawaii insurance officials have previously said premiums for state residents would be competitively priced compared with other U.S. states -- even cheaper in many cases, according to comparisons with two studies.

Hawaii's insurance division says the average monthly rate for a 40-year-old Honolulu resident under the exchange is $217. Coverage won't be affected by pre-existing conditions, but pricing will fluctuate based on age, family size and tobacco use.

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yskeulb wrote:
How do you open without any products to offer? Same as opening a restaurant without any food. Education? You mean telling us what's on the menu but come back in a few months when we get the food? LOL!
on October 1,2013 | 10:57AM
inverse wrote:
From the SA story a few days ago, the menu is already fixed and you have only two choices; HMSA or Kaiser. Which is basically the choices you have in Hawaii even WITHOUT Obamacare. Would think if you really need to sign up for insurance now, might as well just go to the phone book and call up Kaiser or HMSA directly.
on October 1,2013 | 11:11AM
yskeulb wrote:
Got menu but no food right now. Come back later . . .
on October 1,2013 | 02:41PM
jebie8 wrote:
It's worse than that - there isn't even a menu. Just some nebulous description of bronze, silver, gold - no specifics at all. What's the dish consist of - check back later, we can't tell you anything! And the comments of "marketing director" Mr Budar are outrageous! People may not want to PAY for a plan now, but people DO WANT TO KNOW WHAT THE PLANS ARE and have time to sort everything out. This is a total waste of taxpayer money and a huge failure in management. The entire management team of this Hawaii Health Connector and the Board of Directors should be replaced at once!
on October 1,2013 | 04:58PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Poster child of the whole Obamacare program. Nobody knew what was in the bill, waivers are given out all over, it's opposed by a majority of Americans and on opening day, after a 2 year run up, the local exchange website is a failure. Goat rope.
on October 1,2013 | 11:01AM
hawaiikone wrote:
But it's all the republican's fault....
on October 1,2013 | 03:52PM
2localgirl wrote:
yep, not enough lead time, wink wink....
on October 1,2013 | 10:42PM
JohnD2 wrote:
Why do HMSA and Kaiser offer 95 different plans on the "exchange"? Other companies offer health insurance, but they are not included, and there are lots of health insurers in other states that could sell policies in Hawaii if the government would let them. Maybe the exchange has more to do with promoting HMSA and Kaiser, who seem to be in tight with the government.
on October 1,2013 | 11:35AM
nalogirl wrote:
I thought the whole point was competition, I also don't see any new providers coming to Hawaii.
on October 1,2013 | 12:18PM
Sunny wrote:
I've been looking at the Hawaii Health Connector website for the past month and have not seen much useful information and they run ads on TV to go their site for information on health plans that are available. I'd give the HHC an "F" at this point!
on October 1,2013 | 12:00PM
nalogirl wrote:
What a joke, hurry up and wait.
on October 1,2013 | 12:17PM
st1d wrote:
nobody knows what the a.c.a. bill contained so they passed it. nobody knows what the a.c.a. requires so they set a date to implement it. nobody knows what the a.c.a. purpose is so no insurer can provide coverage details or payment schedules.

not bad for core democrat voters.

on October 1,2013 | 01:17PM
jayz43 wrote:
Nancy Pelosi: You have to buy it find out what's in it.
on October 1,2013 | 01:25PM
inlanikai wrote:
Years in the making, 10s of million spent, all the press hype and they can't even post the rates and plans for just two insurers. So why should we trust them with our personal information and our health care? Rank amateurs and incompetence. What else is new?
on October 1,2013 | 02:17PM
2localgirl wrote:
what else is new, a fine if you don't sign up.Only found out today that you have to give them your tax return! What the hell for? also seems that Acorn and Planned Parenthood people are who are working the connector phone lines!! YIKES!!!
on October 1,2013 | 10:45PM
Mythman wrote:
What a nice christmas shopping season present for the economy - give the government a present for Xmas - your money. And you wonder how Adolph Hitler and the Nazi party managed to take over an entire country. Oh, but its for our own good.
on October 1,2013 | 02:54PM
2localgirl wrote:
what I don't understand, is why like minded people would read the SA and then make these comments but 'we' still don't win elections??
on October 1,2013 | 10:46PM
markeno wrote:
"...Budar says he doesn't expect many people to purchase plans until December, with coverage starting Jan. 1, the deadline nationally for most Americans to have health insurance or pay penalties...." I'm sorry Mr. Budar, today is the day I expected to see what my new rates were going to be and twice I've attempted to apply for benefits at the State Benefits site: https://medical.mybenefits.hawaii.gov. TWICE after about 20 minutes of putting my information in for myself, my spouse, my two kids I clicked on the "Next" button and the site crashed. Software of this quality would never make dogfood and we would delay an internal release until it was suitable for testing. What you should be posting on this site rather than wasting my time and countless others is: UNDER CONSTRUCTION Instead you lead us down multiple step wizard and then ambush us about 80% of the way there. TWICE to me today. I also question your security as my user name and password are being managed by a third party called "intuitive clams". Seriously? Whoever is in charge of this site and its development should be FIRED. We are talking about my personal information that should conform to HIPAA standards, but the it doesn't give me much confidence when the site is poorly designed, the security widget appears from a third party, I get asked for the same information twice and the site crashing twice today. The User Experience from www.whitehouse.gov to www.healthcare. gov to www.healthconnect.gov to your site should be seamless! Instead the Ux deteriorates from Washington to Hawaii and it shouldn't. This site is NOT ready for primetime. Put up the WILL BE BACK SOON sign, fix the bugs and then go live.
on October 1,2013 | 10:02PM
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