5 Things Hawaii: Sen. Kai Kahele, Telemedicine, Shareh Ghani, MD

We are putting the finishing touches on our Topical Agenda for our 2020 Hawaii State of Reform Health Policy Conference coming up on January 14th. We’ll have that out to you for review soon. From there, we will hustle to curate about 65 speakers from across the spectrum of Hawaii’s health care and health policy communities.

Our Early Bird rate expired a few days ago, but for the next ten of our readers who would like to register, this super secret link will let you register for 20% off.



With help from Emily Boerger
and Michael Goldberg


1. Sen. Kai Kahele platform on health care

State Senator Kai Kahele has early momentum to replace Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, who recently announced she would not seek re-election in order to focus on her presidential campaign. So, reporter Michael Goldberg took a look at Sen. Kahele’s health care platform and what it might say about where he would fit as a progressive in the Democratic caucus.

Notably, he’s supports a single-payer, “Medicare for All” system, and has a full page dedicated to the topic. He also has a separate page on his campaign website titled “Healthcare.”  That he needs two pages seems a subtle nod to the nuanced complexity of health care as a political and policy issue today.

2. Queen’s, Kaiser lawsuit dismissed

A U.S. District Court judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by Kaiser Foundation Health Plan against the Queen’s Health Systems. Kaiser filed the lawsuit in June after their agreement with Queen’s expired on May 30. With no new contract in place, Kaiser members are at risk of being “balance billed” by the health system. Queen’s filed a motion to dismiss the case in August.

“While the Court finds that this case should be dismissed with prejudice, it is perhaps self-evident that there are no real winners,” said U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson. “In terms of dollars and cents, eventually someone or some entity will need to pay (or be ordered to pay) for the services QMC has rendered to Kaiser’s members.” Patients with a balance owed to Queen’s are left with some financial uncertainty while the two corporate entities hash out their differences. Kaiser says it intends to appeal the court’s ruling.


3. Schatz introduces telemedicine bill

US Senator Brian Schatz introduced a bipartisan bill last week that aims to expand telehealth services through Medicare. The goal of the CONNECT Act of 2019 is to address some of the barriers that make it difficult to utilize telehealth like geographic and originating site restrictions. The legislation is endorsed by over 120 organizations.

Telehealth has also been a focus in Hawaii’s state legislature in recent years. During the 2019 session, the legislature passed a bill (SB 1246) establishing a workgroup to develop a report to the legislature on gaps in Hawaii’s telehealth statutes and best practices to increase the state’s utilization of telehealth. Sen. Roz Baker says that the information in that report will be used to form potential additional telehealth legislation in the 2020 session.

4. Video: Shareh Ghani, MD, Magellan Health

Shareh Ghani, MD, is the Vice President Medical Director at Magellan Health. He joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to discuss Magellan’s innovation in digital health by highlighting a health program launched in California.

“We recently launched a member-facing digital tool… that is accessed by the member on their smartphone or on a tablet. They can communicate with clinicians through an instant messaging app on the phone, they can pick a provider through that app…They can actually use cognitive behavior therapy modules (CBT) that we have on the smartphone.”


5. Community mental illness summit

Yesterday, a wide range of stakeholders gathered for the inaugural “Hawaii Summit on Improving the Governmental Response to Community Mental Illness.” The summit focused on community mental health responses and finding ways to foster partnerships and innovations to cut down on police involvement and connect individuals to mental health services they may need.

Officials from Florida, ArizonaCalifornia, among others, gave presentations on some of the mental health initiatives finding success in their states. Some of the takeaways for Hawaii included increasing the number of qualified mental health personnel and opening a crisis center in the state.