House bills aim to fix Hawaii health exchange
HONOLULU — Leaders of two key committees in the Hawaii House introduced a package of bills to help fix the state’s troubled health care exchange.
One bill would make the Hawaii Health Connector a state entity. Another would change the composition of the exchange’s board.
Democratic Reps. Della Au Belatti and Angus McKelvey said their bills aim to ensure the exchange’s financial stability while improving transparency and reliability. Belatti is chairwoman of the House’s Health Committee; Kelvey helms its commerce committee.
Bellatti said the House wants to have a full-throated discussion about what the exchange should look like and how it can be restructured.
The Hawaii Health Connector is funded with about $200 million in federal grants and is required to be self-sufficient by 2015. But lawmakers expressed worry the exchange won’t be able to support itself. The exchange’s current plan for self-sufficiency calls for funding to come from 2 percent fees charged to insurers on plans sold through the exchange.
Figures released this month by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said less than 2,200 people signed up for individual plans in Hawaii as of Dec. 28.
The exchange started open enrollment two weeks late because of software problems. Its executive director later resigned, citing personal reasons and saying she was not asked to step down.
The exchange has its own board and operates separately from state agencies, but reports to the Legislature.
Blake Oshiro, Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s deputy chief of staff, previously said lawmakers could consider several different steps, including mandating more legislators on the exchange’s board or even fully absorbing the exchange into a state agency.
The online insurance marketplace under President Barack Obama’s federal health care overhaul has had numerous problems, including a late start to open enrollment and few signups.
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