Hawaii health exchange: No plan-buying for now

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Oct. 1 was supposed to be the start up of health-plan shopping as part of the Affordable Care Act, but problems plagued insurance exchanges nationwide, including Hawaii.

The state’s exchange is called the Hawaii Health Connector and it opened for business without specific plans to purchase, though they did take in hundreds of applications that promise more information later.

KHON2 got word starting early Tuesday that things weren’t what they expected when they called or clicked for health coverage through the Hawaii Health Connector.

“Plans are not up today. That is the reality, but applications are. That is really is the first piece of the application process,” Hawaii Health Connector chief marketing officer Rick Budar said.

During build out and publicity over the past year, Oct. 1 was supposed to mark the start of open enrollment, but people can’t compare actual prices plans or details yet there.

“How soon will the editing and checking of the rates be done?” KHON2 asked.

“I think all that’s happening now. So at this point, we are just waiting for it to come up. I know nothing will come out to the public until it is ready. We want to make sure that information is correct, protected, and that will be out shortly,” Budar said.

What one can do online at the connector, or by phone and in person, is to get all your personal information put in, in order to figure out eligibility in the first place, and to be contacted back when plan options are available.

“At some point the connector’s going to have to start showing rates. That’s been one of their selling points is the transparency. So they’re going to have to start showing those rates and doing some comparisons,” said Reg Baker, executive vice president at Hawaii Medical Assurance Association, an insurer not participating in the exchange at this point.

The Hawaii Health Connector says there’s plenty of time because the deadline isn’t until Dec. 15 for coverage starting Jan. 1.

“There isn’t any rush, there isn’t any panic. Everyone can just take a breath, ask your questions, learn, and see what the ACA is about,” Budar said.

The state Insurance Commissioner has already approved 95 plans — about 30 of them dental from a variety of providers. The rest are health plans, but only from two health providers so far, HMSA and Kaiser, which each can provide their information to consumers directly.

Others like HMAA and University Health Alliance are taking a wait-and-see approach, not participating in the exchange at the outset.

“If you’re employed and you work more than 20 hours, you’ve already got the insurance. You don’t need to do anything Oct. 1, it’s already there for you. As a matter of fact, it might be better if you don’t do anything because the health plans are going  be coming out and they’re gonna be very aggressive. They’re going to  be trying to compete with the connector in some sense and they’re going to be coming out with some pretty good deals,” Baker said.

“With Barack Obama, he did say something back in March that said if you like your health insurance, if you like your provider, you can stick with them. You don’t have to do anything else,” said Jermel-Lynn Quillopo of UHA.

The exchange is supposed to be a marketplace where individuals and businesses can choose plans, and see if they can get tax credits or reimbursements for coverage, but not everyone needs to go there nor look for other coverage in the first place.

“If you have Medicare, Medicaid, nothing changes. If you have an employer with 50 or more employees, nothing changes for you,” Budar said.

KHON2 will be keeping tabs on how it’s going at the Connector. They told KHON2 late Tuesday afternoon plans are coming soon, but not until they get that complex matrix of rates and options displays correctly in an online comparison.

The participating insurers also get a say in whether it’s looking right.

Links with plan analysis from the state insurance commissioner, plus direct contacts to insurers in and out of the connector:


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