Rep. Marilyn Lee and Deborah Gardner
Gardner has been a nurse for nearly 40 years, beginning her career in the U.S. Navy. She got her masters degree in nursing at the University of Hawaii in the late 1970's. She realized what a unique education she received in Hawaii, particularly as it relates to cultural sensitivity, only after she moved back to the mainland. She has worked at the National Institute of Health, focusing on brain development and mental health issues, and worked under Mary Wakefield at the Center for Health Policy, Research and Ethics at George Mason University. Wakefield was later appointed by President Obama as the administrator for the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).
Gardner came back to the state level, and to Hawaii specifically, because she saw that Hawaii has been one of the progressive states in health issues and in implementing the Affordable Care Act. She believes that there is a lot of misinformation about the ACA being spread, and that if people had more accurate information, it's hard to imagine that they would oppose it. For example:
People who have pre-existing conditions will be able to get health insurance coverage.
Parents are able to cover older children who have a gap in coverage, such as students in college, or people between jobs.
While not perfect, the ACA begins to look at how we approach covering everyone and still maintain effective cost controls. While Hawaii covers about 90% of its people, thanks to the Prepaid Healthcare law passed in the 1970's, access to healthcare is still a concern, especially in rural areas. Gardner said that she's starting to learn what we have in our system, and it's impressive. The mobile van on the Big Island, championed by Rep. Bob Herkes, is a good example of getting healthcare out to remote areas.
Gardner sees the Center for Nursing as a place where the focus is on improving healthcare for patients. The center looks at workforce data, nursing as a profession issues, and nursing education. For more information, visit their website: http://www.hinursing.org/