- Associated Press - Thursday, May 1, 2014

HONOLULU (AP) - Most people who bought plans through Hawaii’s insurance exchange did so without financial assistance, federal enrollment numbers released Thursday said.

Sixty-two percent of the 8,592 people who bought plans as of March 31 didn’t get aid, data released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services showed. That leaves 38 percent who got help buying a plan.

The numbers run counter to national enrollment figures, for states participating in the federally run exchange as well as for states operating their own exchanges, like Hawaii. Nationally, 85 percent of people who bought plans through an exchange set up under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul got financial aid.

The figures do not include Hawaii enrollments for Medicaid, which covers low-income residents. The federal agency said in its report that it expects the proportion of those receiving aid to shift because the exchange is still getting data from the Hawaii Department of Human Services on applicants determined to be ineligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

The only other jurisdiction that had a majority of enrollees sign up without financial assistance was the District of Columbia, which enrolled 10,714 people, 84 percent without using financial assistance.

Bobby Lambrix, spokesman for the Hawaii Health Connector, the state’s exchange, said software problems inhibited people who tried to get financial help when enrolling online.

“It was easier for them to just apply for no financial assistance,” Lambrix said.

Exchange officials had said during open enrollment that targeting people who needed financial assistance was one of their key goals. The enrollment period ended March 31.

But the online marketplace had numerous problems, including a two-week delay in the start of open enrollment. This week, state lawmakers approved $1.5 million in spending to prop up the exchange for the next year because it won’t make enough to sustain itself.

The total sign-ups in Hawaii over six months of open enrollment fell just short of the federal agency’s projection of 9,000 enrollees.

Lambrix said numbers to be released next week by the state exchange are expected to be higher than the federal estimate because of an extension for enrollees who had started but not finished their applications by the March 31 deadline.

Hawaii Health Connector officials didn’t publicly specify a target number of enrollees, saying they were hoping to reach everyone who was uninsured and eligible for a plan.

Nearly 30 percent of people who bought plans were between ages 55 and 64, the most of any age group, and 41 percent of enrollees bought the cheapest plan available, the bronze level.


Oskar Garcia can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/oskargarcia

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