Thursday, January 23, 2014

2014 Health Connector Bills


Measures to improve transparency, accountability and sustainability

Honolulu, Hawaii – House Representatives Della Au Belatti (Makiki, Tantalus, Papakolea, McCully, Pawaa, Manoa) and Angus McKelvey (West Maui, Maalaea, North Kihei) are introducing a package of bills intended to help the Hawaii Health Connector improve transparency and reliability and ensure the agencies financial stability, as it faces technical and administrative challenges. The Health Connector is the state’s enrollment portal for coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act. 

Belatti, who chairs the House Committee on Health, and McKelvey, who chairs the Committee on Consumer Protection and Commerce, have led committee hearings during the interim aimed at understanding the challenges and problems experienced by the Connector before and since the Connector’s October 1, 2013 rollout.  Both Belatti and McKelvey share a common desire to see the Connector succeed.  

“It goes without saying that the Connector has had a rough time with their rollout for many reasons,” said Belatti. “But at the end of the day, if it fails, it is the people of Hawaii who will be the losers. There has been plenty of justification for finger pointing and calls for accountability, but now we need to move beyond the criticism and provide constructive recommendations to help right the ship.”

“The Connector was designed to match low-income residents with subsidized health plans under the Affordable Care Act,” said McKelvey. “It has faced technical difficulties as well as administrative ones. The problems cannot be solved by a single silver bullet or by simply saying let’s throw it all out and start fresh. If you do, you’re doomed to repeat the same failures.

“We need to understand the specific problems and match the solutions appropriately: If the problem is an administrative one, then let’s fix it administratively. If it’s a technical one, let’s find a technological fix.  If it’s a financial one, let’s find a financial fix.” 

In Hawaii, more than 17,000 individuals have applied for health insurance through the Health Connector during the current open enrollment period, which ends March 31, 2014.

“We can all agree that access to quality health care through affordable health insurance plans is a major goal of health care reform today.  The Connector plays a critical role in fulfilling that goal,” Belatti said. “Our job in the Legislature is to make sure that the Connector is restructured to provide better transparency and accountability, ensure that the Connector is on a path to sustainability, and connect the work of the Connector to the larger process of healthcare transformation.”

The proposed measures include bills:

HB2529 RELATING TO HEALTH: Transitions the Hawaii Health Connector from a private to a state entity. Makes changes to the composition of the Hawaii Health Connector board. Creates a consumer, patient, business, and health care advisory group and an intergovernmental advisory group.   

HB2526 RELATING TO THE HAWAII HEALTH INSURANCE EXCHANGE: Establishes the Hawaii Health Connector as a state entity as of 01/01/2015.

HB2527 RELATING TO HEALTH INSURERS ASSESSMENTS: Establishes a sustainability fee for the Hawaii Health Connector. Deposits the fee into a special subaccount of the Compliance Resolution Fund.

HB2525 RELATING TO INSURANCE RATES:  Requires individual health insurance plans and small group plans to establish rates based on community rating without regard to age, sex, health status, tobacco use or occupation.

HB2530 RELATING TO THE HAWAII HEALTH CONNECTOR:  Effective July 1, 2014, lowers the number of members on the board of directors of the Hawaii Health Connector to twelve, with a maximum of nine total voting members. Removes members representing insurers and dental benefit providers from the board and requires all but one of the state agency representatives on the board to be ex officio, non-voting members. Establishes procedures for filling vacancies on the board.

HB2531 RELATING TO THE HAWAII HEALTH INSURANCE EXCHANGE: Requires the Hawaii Health Insurance Exchange to comply with open meeting and notice provisions and provide an annual report to the Legislature. Clarifies the conduct of board meetings. Implements enforcement provisions and penalties for violations of open meeting and notice requirements.

2014 Women's Legislative Caucus

Includes measures related to health, human trafficking and violence against women

Honolulu, Hawaii – The Women’s Legislative Caucus, consisting of members from both the state Senate and House, today announced a joint package of priorities for the 2014 legislative session. The package of bills cover a broad spectrum of issues of concern to women of all ages and economic background.

“For more than 20 years, our coalition of women legislators have worked on behalf of the concerns and rights of all women in Hawaii,” said Representative Della Au Belatti (Makiki, Tantalus, Papakolea, McCully, Pawaa, Manoa). “By working collectively, we have provided women with a strong voice when it comes to passing measures that will improve women’s quality of life and protect their safety and rights.”

“This year’s initiatives include bills relating to women’s health issues, strengthening the family, violence against women, human trafficking, and Title IX” said Senator Rosalyn Baker (South and West Maui). “I am also very pleased that one of our bills directs the state Department of Education to name the new high school in my district of Kihei, Maui the Patsy Takemoto Mink High School. As a role model for young women and as a pioneer in women’s rights, she deserves this honor for all that she accomplished for women in Hawaii and across the nation.”

“Our collaboration involves not only members of the Legislature, but other organizations that focus on women’s issues, such as the YWCA, the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women, the Organization of Hawaii Women Leaders, and the Patsy T. Mink Center for Business & Leadership,” said Representative Cynthia Thielen (Kailua, Kaneohe Bay). “Proposed bills are voted on by caucus members and those that are approved by at least 75 percent become part of the package.”

“While women have made great strides in many areas, real life experiences and trends suggest we still have a lot of work to do in terms of women’s equality and opportunity, as well as their health, safety and wellbeing,” said Senator Suzanne Chun Oakland (Liliha, Palama, Iwilei, Kalihi, Nuuanu, Pacific Heights, Pauoa, Lower Tantalus, Downtown).


Relating to Health (Requiring Information about the Vaccination for Human Papillomavirus)
Requires the Department of Education, in conjunction with the Department of Health, to annually provide to parents or guardians of each student entering grade six information on the availability of a vaccination for the human papillomavirus (HPV). Information will include the link between HPV and cervical cancer as well as other cancers and diseases and that a vaccination to help prevent HPV infection is available. Parents and guardians are also to be informed about recommendation that the vaccination be completed before the student enters grade seven. Program effective beginning the 2015-2016 school year.

Relating to Cancer (Comprehensive Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program; Appropriation)
Appropriates $100,000 to the Department of Health for the comprehensive breast and cervical control program.

Relating to Jury Duty (Exempting Breastfeeding Mothers from Jury Duty)
Exempts breastfeeding mothers from jury duty for up to one year from the time the mother began breastfeeding the child.


Relating to Infant Mortality (Comprehensive Maternal and Child Health Quality Improvement Program)
Clarifies the role of the Department of Health in reducing infant mortality rates; establishes the Hawaii maternal and child health quality improvement collaborative; requires birthing facility reporting; and appropriates funds for operations.

Relating to Project Kealahou
Appropriates $50,000 for the continued funding of Project Kealahou, within the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Division of the Department of Health. Project Kealahou promotes community-based, individualized, culturally and linguistically competent, family-driven, youth-guided, and evidence-based services for adolescent girls, ages 11 to 21, who have experienced significant trauma in their lives.


Relating to Sexual Assault (Removes the Statute of Limitations on Cases of Sexual Assault)
Removes the statute of limitations for criminal and civil actions arising from sexual assault in the first and second degrees and continuous sexual assault of a minor under the age of fourteen.

Restoring Judiciary Funding of Domestic Violence Funding
Restores funds in the Judiciary budget to allow for funding of domestic violence services

Relating to Human Trafficking (Victim Services Fund)
Establishes the human trafficking victim services fund to be administered by the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations to provide support and services to human trafficking victims.


Relating to Education (Naming Kihei public high school the Patsy Takemoto Mink High School)
Requires the Department of Education to name the new public high school in Kihei, Maui “The Patsy Takemoto Mink High School" in honor of the late United States Representative Patsy Takemoto Mink.


Requesting the University of Hawaii commit to upholding Title IX and VAWA 2013
Requesting the University of Hawaii to affirm their commitment to upholding the tenets of Title IX and the Violence against Women’s Act (VAWA) 2013 and the University of Hawaii’s dedication to ending all forms of sexual violence on Hawaii campuses through a report on the status of Title IX and VAWA 2013 policies, procedures, staffing and statistics.

Requesting the City and County of Honolulu name the new Central Oahu ambulance facility after the late state Health Director Loretta Fuddy.

The public can participate in legislative discussions and follow the progress of the bills by logging onto the Capitol website at

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

2014 Communications Office

Aloha from the House Communications Office! Meet our team for the 2014 Legislative Session:

Carolyn Tanaka (Director) has spent more than 20 years as a communications professional including serving as Communications Director and Press Secretary for Governor John Waihee, Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs at McNeil Wilson Communications and Associate Vice President of University Relations at the University of Hawaii.  Prior to that, she spent 10 years as a television news reporter and anchor at stations KGMB and KHON.

William Nhieu (Assistant Director) has a range of administrative, legislative, analytical and public relations experience gained from positions across public and government affairs. He has previously served in managerial positions on statewide campaigns and as an appointee at the City and County of Honolulu, Legislative Aide to the Senate President, and Committee Clerk for the Hawaii Senate Special Committee on Accountability and the Committee on Tourism.

Tom Yoneyama (Communications Assistant) has an extensive background in strategic communications, including serving as a speech writer for Governor John Waihee and as a staff member for Senate President Bobby Bunda.  He has extensive experience in corporate communications with Central Pacific Bank and Aloha Airlines.  He was also a managing editor for Hawaii Business Magazine and Trade Publishing.

2014 Joint Majority Package


Waipahu Representative Aquino leads House efforts to develop the joint package

Honolulu, Hawaii - Senate and House leaders announced a joint majority package of priorities for the 2014 legislative session. The last time a joint majority package was unveiled was during the 2008 Legislative Session. The significance of a joint package is that the included bills are considered to have statewide importance and the commitment of the majorities of both chambers. 

“It has been years, since both houses have been able to come together to support a joint legislative package,” said House Speaker Joseph M. Souki. “The resulting proposed legislation is the result of the tireless efforts of representatives from both houses, including Representative Henry Aquino (Waipahu), who helped pull together all the various interests and priorities to find mutual ground and commitments to serious concerns that are statewide and cross political boundaries.”

Lawmakers will focus their combined efforts on two major areas of concern: Seniors and the Environment. The kupuna package includes proposed legislation to protect seniors from financial abuse, support healthy aging programs and increase public awareness of long-term care. 

In the last 30 years, the number of seniors over 60 in Hawaii grew by nearly 140 percent and seniors over 85 increased by more than 430 percent. Moreover, studies project that Hawaii’s seniors over 60 will make up nearly a third of the State’s total population by 2035.

“From a cost savings standpoint, which could be significant, it is in all of our best interest to help our families with their kupuna before they fall into our social safety net,” said Aquino who is the House Majority Policy Leader. “The savings notwithstanding, it is the right thing to do.”

With regard to the environment, majority members will address concerns on the effects of climate change and invasive species on our islands. The current severe erosion on Oahu’s North Shore beaches and the threat to homes in the area dramatically illustrate how future climate change could impact Hawaii shorelines.

“We often think of these islands as permanent and unchanging,” said Aquino.  “But our environment is fragile and constantly changing, and increasingly threatened by outside forces. We need to be aware of these threats and develop a concerted effort to protect our people, environment, agriculture and economy from them.”


Relating to Aging: This is a two-part bill that funds healthy aging programs and services, and provides resources for the implementation of a public education and awareness campaign on long-term care.  Most successful senior programs recognize and build upon integrated health and social services.

Therefore, the bill allocates a total of $6.6 million to support community-based programs that incorporate collaborations between health care and social service agencies. The second part of the bill provides $500,000 for the Department of Health’s Executive Office on Aging to implement a public education and awareness campaign to help better prepare Hawaii residents in planning for future long-term care needs.

Relating to the Investor Education Program: This bill provides a proposed $50,000 in funding for outreach initiatives of the Office of Consumer Protection (DCCA) to prevent financial abuse of seniors.


Relating to Climate Change: This bill provides the resources and timeline to ensure Hawaii adapts to protect the public from the effects of climate change. Provides positions and resources to the Office of Planning who will, within 18 months, come up with plans and policy recommendations to effectively address the worst impacts expected through 2050.

Relating to Invasive Species: This bill provides a proposed $5 million in funding for the Hawaii Invasive Species Council to help eradicate threats from invasive species on all the islands.