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No on SB1274 HD1 – Health Plan Lobbyists Pushing Calvin Say and Shan Tsutsui Around?

Twelve years ago, the Hawaii legislature passed a law that gives individuals a level playing field against rich and powerful health plans, an effective defense against the types of behavior Michael Moore chronicled in “Sicko.”   With that law, patients and their families have won the right to have the insurance commissioner order their health plans to pay for emergency heart surgery for a 2 ½ month old infant, emergency bladder surgery for a middle-aged man with a highly aggressive bladder cancer, a bone marrow transplant, chemotherapy for cancer and other diseases, radiation therapy for prostate cancer, various diagnostic tests for cancer,  and more. The medical care in all of these cases was prohibitively costly, but life-saving.

Health plans are lobbying very hard for S.B. 1274, which uses Obamacare as an excuse to throw out that law, repealing the consumer protections those patients used to win their cases.  On questioning this week by Representatives Cynthia Thielen, Barbara Marumoto, Sylvia Luke, and Gilbert Keith-Agaran, the Abercrombie Administration official responsible for S.B. 1274 admitted that he does not know whether Obamacare requires Hawaii to repeal its strong and effective consumer protections because he did not bother to find out before asking Senate President Shan Tsutsui to introduce it.  He pronounced Hawaii’s existing law “great” and admitted that SB1274 is simply the bare minimum protections Obamacare required the states that did not have them to enact.

The Representatives insisted that there is no reason why Hawaii consumers should not have greater rights than those Obamacare minimums, and they sent the Abercrombie Administration official back with instructions to come up with a draft that preserves all of the rights in Hawaii’s existing law.  That position was also taken on the Senate side.  In a March 3 interview on “Town Square,” Sen. Josh Green told Beth Ann Koslovich and her audience of over 60,000 Hawaii consumers should not have to give up their rights under Obamacare.  Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland has also said she believes Hawaii consumers should be able to have their stronger protections, and requested that I provide a draft of S.B.1274 amended to put back in our existing consumer protections.

The health plans are continuing to lobby Speaker Calvin Say and Senate President Shan Tsutsui hard to send the present version of SB1274 to the Governor for his signature, and have even threatened to sue me for informing the Legislature that they have lost 80% of the cases under the old law.


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