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State officials: 75K in Hawaii have no health care

July 22, 2014 - 6:13am

HONOLULU — The rate of people without health insurance in Hawaii has dropped below 6 percent since the implementation of the federal health care law, state officials said Monday.

Officials said at a joint House committee briefing that roughly 75,000 people in Hawaii don’t have health insurance, down from well over 100,000 last year.

The rate is down from about 8 percent before the push to enroll people last year, Insurance Commissioner Gordon Ito said.

The new numbers come as lawmakers discuss Hawaii’s troubled health insurance exchange, which can’t sustain itself financially.

The state is still figuring out how to operate on a much smaller budget, said Tom Matsuda, interim executive director of the Hawaii Health Connector, the state’s health exchange. The Legislature approved $1.5 million in state funding for the exchange this year, and it has about 30 percent of its more than $200 million in federal grants left to spend, Matsuda said.

“Our perspective is we have to make it work,” he said of how the exchange will operate on limited funds once the grant money runs out.

As of July 12, nearly 44,000 people signed up for health insurance through the Hawaii Health Connector and Medicaid, Matsuda said.

Matsuda and Keone Kali, the state’s chief information officer, said a top priority for the exchange and the state’s Medicaid program is improving the application process, avoiding problems seen last year with software glitches, lost applications and other technical troubles.

Hawaii plans to propose a central system to federal officials in August that would allow the state to help drive people to Medicaid or the exchange, Kali said.

The system could be good for the health exchange because it would relieve it from server costs and other operations, Matsuda said.

About half the uninsured people in Hawaii are expected to qualify for Medicaid, while the other half qualify for insurance through the online marketplace, state officials said.

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