Sorting Out Obamacare Details

So the Affordable Care Act is on. Now a lot of folks are asking the question: Just how affordable is it? Reports are coming in from those who say they have used the site to figure out how much they’ll pay. Some have been ecstatic because they had no insurance at all and now they’ll be covered at a reasonable price. Others have been angered because they think they might have to pay more because of their age, income, size of business, etc. How will it all shake down?

The answer is: It will take time to sort out this massive and complex undertaking. And while that makes absolutely no one happy, it was be to expected.

One of the most pressing issues for Hawaii as I write this is the failure of the Hawaii Health Connector website. According to the site: “The level of engagement reaffirmed the public interest for new health insurance options. The Connector logged 19,457 unique visits to the site, completed 1,181 applications, and received 1,257 calls connected at the contact center on the first day.”

But many who tried to use the site encountered a load of frustration. People here, as in many other states, reported the sites had glitched and were difficult to understand.

Something that sets Hawaii apart from the rest of the U.S. is our own comprehensive health care law. Officials here have made it a priority to protect the Prepaid Health Care Act, which, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, has made Hawaii the state with the nation’s second-lowest uninsured rate. Only Massachusetts with its “Romneycare” has a lower uninsured rate. So the challenge is to keep the advantages of Hawaii’s Prepaid Act while folding in the requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

I listened in on a livestream of an informational briefing at the Capitol (thank you, Olelo!) and one thing was quite clear: Almost everyone’s confused. However, it’s also clear it is both useful and productive to ask the questions and identify the areas of most confusion. Coral Andrews, executive director of the Connector, apologized.

“We know that the delay in getting the online portal for the Hawaii Health Connector up and fully functional has been frustrating,” she said. “We apologize and want everyone to know we are focusing all our efforts on getting the website up and running by Oct. 15 so that residents and small businesses of our state will have an easy, efficient marketplace where they can get health insurance with better prices, more choices and improved benefits for themselves and their families.”

The good news is, if you are uninsured, you have until Dec. 15 to enroll in insurance plans through the Hawaii Health Connector. Those plans kick in Jan. 1, 2014.

And this is important: I’m told that while the tool on the site gives an estimate, you still have to walk through the enrollment process in order to determine your real savings as plans become available through the Connector.

The number to call for help is 1-877-628-5076. That means both the Connector and the state have to get their act together ASAP, which they are trying to do. Bewildered consumers are saying, try harder.

This is not going to be a quick or easy process. The devil really is in the details.