Hawaii Health Connector closes, leaving behind big transition ch - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Hawaii Health Connector closes, leaving behind big transition challenges

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

The embattled Hawaii Health Connector ended its operations Friday, after running into a host of technical and financial problems.

"We've been blessed having prepaid health insurance for so many years and we're so far ahead of everybody else," said State Senator Roz Baker, chairwoman of the Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee. "This probably wasn't the right model for us because we just didn't have enough uninsured to make it sustainable."

According to state officials, 24,000 people in Hawaii were insured through health insurance exchange, which cost about $130 million to set up.

Only about 4,500 have now signed up for insurance on its federal replacement in the new year -- healthcare.gov.

The state Department of Human Services has now assumed responsibility for outreach. People must re-enroll by December 15 to make sure there is no lapse in coverage.

There have been some enrollment delays due to language barriers and other issues, especially for migrants from Pacific Islands living in Hawaii under the Compacts of Free Association.

Instead of going to the federal website, state officials recommend contacting a call center that is open around the clock, with interpreters standing by at 1-800-318-2596.

"Challenges ahead, I think we're going to figure it out as we go along," said DHS director Rachael Wong. "Some of it will depend on the information that we receive as we take over responsibility. Some of it will be a learning curve as we work in new areas,"

Roughly 40 full-time and temporary staff from the Hawaii Health Connector were laid off on Friday.

DHS is hiring a few of them who specialize in outreach efforts.

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