5 Things Hawaii: Bruce Anderson, Medicaid enrollments, Jeannette Koijane

On August 9th, 309 new cases were reported in Hawaii – almost 50% higher than the two week average of new daily cases. The 14-day average is 230 new cases. At that lower rate of 230 cases per day, that means 1 in 16 Hawaii residents will likely contract the virus over the next 12 months.

On September 2nd, 338 new cases were reported in Hawaii. In the week prior, there were an average of 247 cases per day, making the trend worse.

Be safe this Labor Day, everyone.





With help from Emily Boerger

1. Bruce Anderson to retire

State officials announced Monday that DOH Director Bruce Anderson is leaving Gov. Ige’s cabinet effective September 15. The news came after weeks of controversy surrounding the way the state has handled COVID-19 contact tracing and testing. Emergency physician Dr. Libby Char will serve as interim director of DOH.

House Health Committee Chair Rep. John Mizuno released a statement in response to the news noting that a lack of robust testing and adequate contact tracers hurt DOH’s credibility during the pandemic. “Moving forward, if interim Director Char and the Department can collaborate with the Legislature, the National Guard, the County Mayors, the Medical community, and the Department of Transportation (COVID-19 screening) and be extremely transparent and honest to the public, then I think the changing of the guard will be good for Hawaii.”


2. Update on Medicaid enrollments

Medicaid enrollment has increased by over 37,000 individuals over the past year in Hawaii. In August 2019, 330,601 individuals were enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program. A year later, as of August 17, Medicaid membership now totals 367,994 – representing an 11.3% increase.

During this time period, Kaiser Permanente and UnitedHealthcare Community Plan saw the largest percent jumps in enrollment, increasing 20.1% (+5,972 members) and 14.1% (+6,729 members), respectively. In terms of new members, HMSA enrolled an additional 16,157 individuals. Broken down by county, Medicaid enrollment increased by 14.3% in Kauai, 9% in Hawaii, 13.8% in Maui, and 11% in Honolulu.


3. Convening panel to set conference agenda

We are getting the band back together! Our Convening Panel is the group we look to for guidance on topics and speakers as we build our agenda for the 2021 Hawaii State of Reform Health Policy Conference. Next year’s conference will be on January 14th, which we anticipate will be virtual rather than in person.

If you have ideas for content, now is a good time to share those. I’ll incorporate the feedback into the Discussion Guide that we share with our Convening Panel to support their conversation. What topics should our audience dig into? Who should we curate to speak? In our crowd-sourced model for content development, your input is really helpful to us. So, let us know!

4. Video: Jeannette Koijane

Jeannette Koijane is the Executive Director of Kokua Mau, a resource for information on advance care planning, hospice, and palliative care. She joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to discuss the importance of palliative care. These remarks were recorded before the COVID-19 pandemic during our previous convening.

“There’s a lot of things around the organizing principle of palliative care. Recognizing that people really need support, their loved ones need support, but there are professionals out there that can help. I think, you know, for me it’s always so tragic when people say, ‘Oh I didn’t know about that. My loved one was in the hospital and I didn’t know to ask for a palliative care consult.’ We have to get people aware of what it is, the resource, and to take advantage of it.”


5. Putting summertime election polling in context

For the month of August, FiveThirtyEight’s average national polling shows Vice President Joe Biden with about an 8 point advantage over President Trump. But if we look back at presidential elections over the past 40 years, a lot can change between August polling and election day results. Remember when that July 1988 Gallup poll showed Michael Dukakis with a 17 point lead over George H.W. Bush? Jimmy Carter was ahead of Ronald Reagan in August. Hilary Clinton was ahead of Donald Trump.

The point is that there are a wide range of things that could – and likely will – shift the campaign in the final 61 days ahead of the general election. Things could change. One pollster recently estimated that about 10 percent of voters are likely undecided. Moreover, some Trump-friendly demographics are difficult to reach and there aren’t enough large sample, quality polls that succeed in including these voters. So, don’t expect this to be a linear process between now and November 3rd.