The League of Women Voters supports all three parts of this bill, but will address today only the first part which deals with the establishment of a Hawaii Health Authority.
There is no question that Hawaii, like the rest of the nation, is facing increasingly difficult problems in providing affordable health care for all of its citizens. In 2005, healthcare costs nationally totalled about $2 trillion. Analysts predict that by 2015, the nation’s healthcare bill will be more than $4 trillion with government paying half of the costs and consumers paying the other half. In Hawaii, our Prepaid Health Care Act has produced coverage that was the envy of the other states, but employers have begun to skirt the demands of the Act by hiring part-time workers.
An article in Wednesday, April 5th Honolulu Advertiser announced that the Massachusetts Legislature had passed a bill that makes carrying healthcare insurance coverage mandatory with fines to enforce compliance. Insurance for people below the Federal poverty line is heavily subsidized by the State, so that premiums are not required and there is only a small co-payment. Others who are more fortunate but still require some assistance will pay premiums based on their ability to pay. Massachusetts will be the only state that makes purchasing of healthcare insurance mandatory the way automobile insurance is mandated by most states. The same article mentioned Hawaii and Maine as the only states with programs seeking near-universal coverage.
Another article says that a study found that regardless of one’s economic standing, Americans of all races get roughly equal health treatment and the care is woefully mediocre for all. “Experts blame the overall poor care on an over-burdened, fragmented system that fails to keep close track of patients with increasing number of multiple conditions.”
We believe that with health care cost looming as a monumental problem for the whole nation, a comprehensive plan is needed which will help reduce healthcare costs by eliminating duplication of administrative and other services, reducing waste, computerized record keeping instantly available when needed, and through other means. We also need to keep the cost from escalating at the rate it is now. We need a program which will cover everyone, so that no person may worry about being able to afford health care when it is needed. At the same time we cannot neglect the accessibility to healthcare services which many rural areas lack on a fulltime basis. The cause could be the lack of trauma centers, or hospital beds, or the specialized physician.
The Task Force will have a demanding agenda. But, there are many resources out there that they can rely on --- work done by other organizations such as the Health Care Task Force and the Hawaii Uninsured Project, and the report nearing full release by the Lewin Group on the cost of moving Hawaii into a universal single-payer medical insurance program among others.
Hawaii, and the nation, must develop the best program to provide improved healthcare while containing the dramatic and unsustainable rise in healthcare costs.
We urge you to pass SB 2133, SD2, HD1. Thank you for this opportunity to testify on this bill.