5 Things Hawaii: Coronavirus, Gun legislation, Cheryl Vasconcellos

With the mainland starting to become gripped with coronavirus fear, we find ourselves caught somewhere between glued to Twitter and floating among Dept. of Health sites across the country. Read this link to understand the math of the virus’s growth, but read this to understand why math works differently in epidemiology. The first global pandemic in the age of social media means we’re all going to hear about the worst of this event from colleagues and friends, even if we as individuals experience limited health impacts.




With help from Emily Boerger


1. Coronavirus update

Hawaii officially has two cases of COVID-19 and the state is taking steps to reduce the impact of the virus on Hawaii. On Tuesday, the Senate approved $6.6 million to the DOH, $2.8 million to the DOT, and $1.2 million to the DOD in emergency funds to detect, contain, and respond to COVID-19. Gov. Ige announced on Wednesday that Lt. Gov. Green would serve as the state’s COVID-19 health care liaison, and issued an emergency proclamation on the virus on Thursday.

For a state particularly dependent on tourism and imports, the coronavirus also poses a serious threat to Hawaii’s economy. The House passed a resolution introduced by House Speaker Scott Saiki on Tuesday to establish the Select Committee on COVID-19 Economic and Financial Preparedness. According to Saiki, the State Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism reported a 7.3% drop in international travelers to Hawaii in February, and an estimated $23 million in lost visitor expenditures.

2. Q&A: Cheryl Vasconcellos, Hana Health

Legislators introduced a new version of HB 668 this year in response DHS’s plan to reduce the number of Medicaid health plan options on neighbor islands. The bill would require DHS to receive approval from the legislature through a two-thirds vote in each chamber prior to executing a contract that would reduce the number of Medicaid plans available in any part of Hawaii. The bill passed out of the health committee, but failed to make it out of the full House.

Madeline Shannon spoke with Hana Health Executive Director Cheryl Vasconcellos, who testified in support of the bill, about how the reduction in plan options will impact neighbor island residents. “These are high-need, vulnerable patient populations that are being impacted, and this will create, I’m sure, a lot of anxiety on their part and a lot of additional work on the part of the health center trying to mitigate the transition,” said Vasconcellos.


3. Health legislation update

Last week marked the deadline for bills to pass out of their house of origin. With this in mind, here’s a look at some of the health-related bills still progressing.

Vaping-related bills like HB 2457, which bans the sale of flavored vaping products, and SB 2227, which would subject e-cigarette devices to the excise tax on tobacco products, are on the move. A bill exempting primary care providers from the general excise tax (GET) passed out of the Senate on Tuesday. And, mental health legislation like HB 2412HB 2522, and HB 2707 are all moving forward.

4. Video: What They’re Watching: Dr. Scott Miscovich

Scott Miscovich, MD, is the President & Founder of Premier Medical Group Hawaii. He is also one of the founders of Hawaii Homeless Healthcare Hui (H4) and was appointed Chair of Lt. Gov. Green’s Health Commission on Gun Violence. Miscovich joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to discuss gun violence in Hawaii.

This interview was recorded at the 2020 Hawaii State of Reform Conference on January 14th, just days before two Honolulu police officers were fatally shot near Diamond Head. Since then, a series of bills aimed at reducing gun violence in the state (HB 2744HB 1902HB 2736, and HB 2709) have progressed in the legislature.


5. Capretta: “An actual bipartisan plan”

In his most recent column, State of Reform columnist Jim Capretta of the AEI highlights the Bipartisan Policy Center’s (BPC) new federal health reform plan. He calls the plan, which he had a hand in writing, both notable and important during a time when “political polarization has largely paralyzed Washington.”

“There is no panacea for the many and varied problems that need attention, but the BPC proposals include ideas that would lower costs, stabilize insurance coverage, and improve the quality of care provided to patients,” says Capretta. The plan’s list of major reforms include: reinsurance, automatic enrollment, expanded premium assistance, price transparency, price competition in the hospital market, and the elimination of surprise billing.