Hawaii's ObamaCare exchange in jeopardy

Hawaii's ObamaCare exchange in jeopardy
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Hawaii may be forced to ditch its state-run healthcare exchange and direct all ObamaCare sign-ups to the federal government’s website this fall.

Gov. David Ige (D) acknowledged this week that the state has still not found a way to address a major funding shortfall for its exchange, the Hawaii Health Connector, as well as a host of technical problems.

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If the state cannot help its exchange meet federal standards, people looking to buy insurance through ObamaCare will have to use HealthCare.gov.

Still, Ige is pushing back against reports this week that Hawaii had already decided to scrap its exchange. He said discussions between state and federal officials have been misrepresented and that no decisions have been made.  

Hawaii’s move to the federal exchange would leave only 13 states with state-based marketplaces. Already, about a half-dozen states, including Oregon and Nevada, have had to scrap their exchanges and move to the federal system because of funding and technological issues.

If Hawaii moves to HealthCare.gov, it would also mean one more state that could be affected by a Supreme Court ruling this summer. The case, King v. Burwell, questions whether ObamaCare subsidies are legal in states that rely on the federal exchange.

If the court rules against ObamaCare, as many as 8 million people could lose their subsidies — not including those in Hawaii. About 40,000 people are receiving coverage through Hawaii Health Connector, according to its executive director.

The Obama administration first warned Hawaii this spring that the state exchange was failing to meet federal standards for financial sustainability, IT support and eligibility enrollment system.

But the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) says it has not yet lost hope that the state exchange can be salvaged. The CMS is still in talks with the state about “options and steps they need to take to best serve their state’s consumers,” spokesman Aaron Albright said.

“We remain committed in working with Hawaii so that people from Hawaii have the ability to shop for quality, affordable health coverage,” Albright said.

Critics of ObamaCare have been quick to condemn the $205 million spent to create the exchange.