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Hawaii health exchange head wants more oversight

    Jeffrey Kissel

The new head of the state’s troubled health exchange said he wants more oversight for the institution, and that he wants to expand the scope of some of the contractors that verify how well the Connector website is functioning.

Executive Director Jeff Kissel presented the idea to the board of the Hawaii Health Connector Friday.

"I’m not comfortable that we have enough third party oversight in what we do, and because we are a public facing company I want a little more oversight on our activity," Kissel said in an interview.

If Connector officials say something’s working, that’s not enough. Kissel wants the people who are experts to ensure that all systems are running the way they’re supposed to, he said.

He hopes to expand the work that Turning Point, a consulting company, is doing, so that they’re evaluating the business process at the Connector, he said. That would be paid for through federal funds.

"Any time we have anything like this, which is a brand new piece of government infrastructure, the people who run it owe it to the people that it’s functioning properly and the money is properly spent," Kissel explained.

Connector officials also gave a status report on open enrollment which began Saturday. The rollout was far smoother than last year, when problems delayed open enrollment by two weeks.

A year ago, 41 percent of customers who tried to sign up during the initial days of open enrollment gave up. In the first week of open enrollment this year, just 2 percent gave up. Wait times to speak to a representative fell from an average of 1 minute and 15 seconds last year down to 20 seconds this year.

In addition, 22 new companies signed up to sell plans through the employer side of the exchange in the first week of open enrollment in 2014, compared with 35 companies in the previous year.

The Connector received some complaints from customers, and Kissel called them back personally, he said. Before the meeting began, he stepped outside to speak to a customer on his cell phone, and wound up sending a staff member to the customer’s home to help them enroll.

Even so, there are outstanding problems with data management, systems design, the document updates and the interface, and corrective actions need to be taken, said Corinna Martinez, a senior project manager with Turning Point.

The board plans to submit an annual report to the Legislature on Jan. 1. It will include a funding plan through 2020 that takes into consideration large employer groups that may be a potential customer base starting in 2017.

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