HONOLULU - Hawaii is launching its new online marketplace for health insurance as part of President Barack Obama's health care law, in an attempt to get as many people covered in the state as possible.
The Hawaii Health Connector was expected to go live today, offering tiered plans for individuals and small businesses with an eye toward a key deadline at the start of 2014.
On Jan. 1, nearly all Americans will have a legal obligation to carry health insurance or face fines.
Tom Matsuda, the implementation manager for the law for Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie's office, says the exchange is a major step in giving certain parts of the community a new way to buy health insurance.
Matsuda said Monday that it's important for people to understand how they're personally affected by the new law.
"I just hope that folks out there will learn about this and learn what their options are," Matsuda said.
It's not clear if Hawaii anticipates any hiccups with the new system, as glitches are likely to pop up around the country.
Over the weekend, several states struggled to get plan information to display properly on websites. The federal government earlier announced delays for small business and Spanish-language signups. And the government shutdown could slow technology fixes.
Hawaii Health Connector officials declined to comment Monday. Connector officials also plan to hold a news conference today.
Matsuda said he had not heard of technological issues, referring questions to the connector, a private entity governed by the Hawaii Legislature, along with federal and state law.
"We have to see how it works - it's just getting started," Matsuda said.
Hawaii insurance officials have previously said premiums for state residents would be competitively priced compared with other U.S. states - even cheaper in many cases, according to comparisons with two studies.
Hawaii's insurance division says the average monthly rate for a 40-year-old Honolulu resident under the exchange is $217. Coverage won't be affected by pre-existing conditions, but pricing will fluctuate based on age, family size and tobacco use.