5 Things Hawaii: Q&A with Rep. Belatti, Vaccine exemptions, Winnie Suen

A big mahalo to Emily Boerger, Sara Gentzler, Marjie High and Emily Viles, who together make up our content team with me at State of Reform! With your support, through your conference attendance and participation, State of Reform continues to grow in an era of shrinking newsrooms. So, a big mahalo to you, too, for reading our stuff and attending State of Reform in January.

Your support is meaningful.


With help from Emily Boerger



1. Health care legislative wrap-up

Over the course of session, lawmakers introduced over 3,000 bills, and about 300 bills ultimately passed both chambers. With last week marking the end of the 2019 legislative session, Reporter Emily Boerger rounded up a list of notable health care legislation passed this year.

The list includes: a bill that invests $21.6 million in addressing homelessness, Kupuna Caucus legislationa bill described as an “intermediate step to implementing a full Medicaid buy-in program,” and legislation to increase adoption and access to telehealth services across the state. You can find the rest of the list here.


2. Q&A: Rep. Della Au Belatti

Rep. Della Au Belatti represents House District 24 and is a member of both the House Health Committee and the Human Services and Homelessness Committee. As the House Majority Leader, she’s also one of the most influential and most respected members in the chamber.

We caught up with Rep. Belatti this week to discuss how session shaped up in terms of health care and where Hawaii’s health policy conversation is headed next, in this Q&A. “It was a very good year for Hawaii. We passed some significant bills that continue to lead in the nation, I think, on making sure that we are improving our health care system and making sure that access to care is strong,” said Belatti.

3. Vaccine exemptions on the rise

A new report from the Hawaii Department of Health on school immunization exemptions shows that exemption rates have continued to rise. This comes as measles outbreaks continue throughout the U.S., with 764 cases in 23 states as of May 3rd

So far, Hawaii has been spared from measles, but officials worry that such easily obtainable exemptions represent a public health danger. While many states have considered stronger vaccination requirements in 2019, SB 203, which would give pharmacists the ability to administer vaccines, was the only vaccine-related bill that made it through the Hawaii Legislature this session.

4. Video: Winnie Suen, Queen’s Health Systems

Winnie Suen is the Chief Medical Officer, QCIPN, at the Queen’s Health Systems. She joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to discuss the Medicare Shared Savings Program.

“Because insurances are changing so much and coming up with different ideas and programs that they could try out, [physicians are] a little leery right now. Like, what does this mean for me right now and does participating in this mean I can’t participate in this other program? And how do the programs work together? And I think that’s a valid concern because sometimes we create programs in silos and may not figure out that there are interactions that we need to consider.”


5. “Medicare for All” and its price tag

Last week, “Medicare for All” legislation received its first Congressional hearing. The hearing, which attracted a great deal of partisan debate, discussed many of the unanswered questions regarding the shift from a patchwork payer model across various lines of business, to a single-payer health care system. Reporter Emily Viles covered the hearing here.

Following the hearing, the Congressional Budget Office released a report suggesting the process of creating such a plan could be more difficult than originally anticipated. The report explained how a single-payer system could be constructed, how it could be paid for, and some of the challenges that lawmakers face in establishing rules and regulations for the Medicare for All model.