- Associated Press - Thursday, April 17, 2014

HONOLULU (AP) - The federal government will conduct an investigation of Hawaii’s troubled health exchange after a request from the state Senate’s lone Republican.

Sen. Sam Slom announced the investigation Thursday. He said the federal Government Accountability Office chose to investigate the Hawaii Health Connector after his request.

Slom had written a letter to the federal government requesting an investigation in late March. Taxpayers and lawmakers should be outraged at the Connector’s lack of planning and money management, he said.

“It was a question of where did the money go, how was it spent, and the big thing is sustainability,” Slom said. “I’ve been concerned about the lack of information from the get-go.”

The Government Accountability Office confirmed Wednesday that the office will add Hawaii to the list of several states it’s investigating, Slom said. The office will look into how the Connector used more than $200 million in federal grants, he said.

Officials from Hawaii’s health exchange have said the exchange is not financially sustainable. It has asked the state for $4.7 million in support for this year and up to $9 million next year. The Legislature is considering supporting the exchange through either funds or a fee to insurance companies.

Connector officials had not yet heard about the investigation Thursday, although they had responded to information requests from the GAO in February.

“The Connector has not received any recent requests from the GAO,” executive director Tom Matusda said in a statement. “However, the Connector will respond appropriately to any request from the GAO.”

The interim state auditor is currently conducting a review of the Connector’s spending and organization. Results of that audit are expected in late fall. But Slom thought it would be a good to have an outside observer examine the spending, he said.

“The GAO had more resources to do this, and I thought because of the federal grant, they would have some interest,” Slom said. “I think we really need to have some dispassionate people take a look at it.”

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