5 Things Hawaii: Election night, Christopher Chow, Final ACA rates

With many races nationally still too close to call, election night in Honolulu was subdued with many important races decided in the primary. There will be a flurry of activity next among insiders: caucus leadership, possible policy staff changes, etc.  Health policy activity is likely to be also subdued for the next few months ahead of the session, but expect things to pick up considerably in mid-January.

DJ 5 Things SignatureWith help from Emily Boerger
and Marjie High



1.  Little talk of health care at Dem election party

Karianna Wilson was on hand for Election Night festivities at the Dole Cannery in Honolulu.  It was full of Hawaii’s political leadership, including Gov. Ige, Lt. Gov-Elect Josh Green, and members of the Congressional delegation. AlohaCare CEO Laura Esslinger was also in attendance.  Karianna offers her report of the night here.

Health care wasn’t much of a topic of conversation during the evening, she reports.  In a conversation with Tulsi Gabbard, the Congresswoman said the House Democrats would still need to determine where health care would fit into the priority list.  This morning, it’s reported that House Democrats have decided to move quickly in the new Congress on a vote to protect pre-existing conditions.


2.  Takeaways from the federal election

The country is still adjusting to the post-election new normal, yet party divisions appear likely to lead to deadlock on many issues, including health care. Marjie High on our team has this take on what the federal election may mean for health care policy.

“Repeal and replace” is likely stalled for good.  Legislative deadlock will push policy changes toward executive and judicial channels. State influence in health policy will continue to grow as the Trump administration loosens administrative rules, allowing states like Hawaii to take more control through its own legislative action.

3. 2019 ACA individual rates modestly increase

Hawaii’s Insurance Division released the final 2019 ACA individual plan health insurance rates. Though the overall average rates will increase by approximately 5.3 percent, the rates are lower than previously proposed and less than last year’s increases, perhaps indicating stabilization in the individual market.

While HMSA had proposed a slight 2.7 percent increase, its rates are actually set to fall by an average of .37 percent. Meanwhile, Kaiser’s rates will increase by 12.9 percent on average. Open enrollment for ACA individual plans began on Nov. 1st and will last through Dec. 15th.  Hawaii has almost 32,000 enrollees on the individual market.

4.  Video: Christopher Chow, WestPac Wealth Partners

Christopher Chow is a financial adviser for WestPac Wealth Partners providing financial planning services to health care professionals. He also has a depth of experience in health care, having attended medical school and worked to advise the industry in Hawaii for years.  He joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to talk about the challenge of attracting practitioners to private practice.

“I’ve noticed a lot of my colleagues (physicians) have shifted towards the Kaisers and very stable positions. It’s not all to their fault, they’re coming out [of medical school] with some of them over three, four hundred thousand dollars of student loans and they don’t know how else to approach it. For them, having that security of starting in a salaried position is what’s attracting them to that place. So, one of the concerns I do have is that private practice is being shoved out, especially in a place like Hawaii.”



5. New facilities bolster access

Health care facility expansions are increasing access to services in Hawaii. On Oct. 18 University Health Partners of Hawaii (UHP) and the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) opened a new women’s health clinic in Hilo. The clinic will address a two-fold purpose, adding immediate access to physicians on the under-resourced island and serving as a training facility to mentor new doctors into rural practice.

On Oahu, Kaiser Permanente Hawaii announced plans to move forward with a previously stalled building project in Kapolei. The proposed $60 million primary and specialty care facility will join an expansion by The Queen’s Health Systems set to include a new hospital tower, a physician building, and parking next to Queen’s Medical Center-West Oahu.