5 Things Hawaii: Q&A w/Sen. Stanley Chang, Topical Agenda, Physician shortage

We are on the cusp of a tremendous leap forward in vaccine science, which is something that our gratification-now culture doesn’t fully appreciate. It took 5 days from sequencing the virus genome to the vaccine design. Next week, emergency use authorization is expected for Pfizer’s vaccine. First vaccinations are expected December 11th.

It took four years for the mumps vaccine to be developed, which was previously the fastest development of a vaccine ever. This moment is equivalent to landing on the moon for vaccine science. But with no images, no quote upon landing, and no visionary call from a martyred president (Kennedy), it’s not a moment likely to be fully appreciated or seared into our collective memory.

But, in the perhaps unpolished word choice of President-Elect Joe Biden, upon the passage of the ACA in 2010, this is a big deal.





With help from Emily Boerger

1. Q&A: Sen. Stanley Chang

Sen. Stanley Chang represents Hawaii’s Senate District 9 and serves as chair of the Senate Committee on Housing. In this Q&A, Sen. Chang discusses COVID’s impact on Hawaii, upcoming legislation, and the importance of affordable housing as a piece of the puzzle during the pandemic and beyond.

“Being at home is the most effective prevention that we have for the virus. But Hawaii is facing the most severe housing shortages in the country,” says Chang. “I intend to end the housing shortage. I want to double, triple, quadruple the housing so that every Hawaiian family can have a home. It’s a long-term problem, but I’m cautiously optimistic that this crisis will open the window to end the housing shortage.”


2. ICYMI: Topical Agenda now available

In case you missed it, we recently released the Topical Agenda for the 2021 Hawaii State of Reform Virtual Health Policy Conference coming up on January 14th! It’s a set of topics pulled together from scores of hours of conversations with our Convening Panel, key stakeholders, and sponsors. We’ll be exploring politics and policy in health care, discussing the future of Medicaid, and diving deep into COVID’s impact on the economy, tele-health, and health equity.

You can view the Topical Agenda here for a sense of the conversations we have teed up, and if you have suggestions for speakers let us know! If you haven’t already registered, we’d be honored to have you join us!

3. Potential solutions to address Hawaii’s physician shortage

In 2019, Hawaii experienced a 24% physician shortage – or 820 doctors. According to preliminary data, that number has since grown to 1,014 physicians. With an aging workforce, and a unique set of challenges facing the state, that shortage is expected to continue to grow in the coming years.

Dr. John Lauris Wade, member of the Hawaii Physician Shortage Crisis Task Force, outlined two potential solutions to address this shortage in a recent report. He points to Medicare payment reform and the elimination of the General Excise Tax on physician and APRN medical services as the “single best path toward building a robust Hawaii healthcare system.”


4. Changes to House committees

House Speaker Scott Saiki recently announced the new committee assignments for the 2021 legislative session. Heading into the new session, two committees will merge to form the Health, Human Services & Homelessness Committee, which will be chaired by Rep. Ryan Yamane.

Saiki’s announcement also details the members of the newly-formed House Pandemic & Disaster Preparedness Committee which will be charged with allocating revenue and resources related to industries impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Rep. Linda Ichiyama will chair this committee. Both Reps. Yamane and Ichiyama have confirmed their participation to speak at State of Reform next month.


5. DOH’s vaccine plan

The Department of Health recently released its draft COVID-19 vaccination plan, outlining the state’s plan to receive, store, allocate, and administer a COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available. According to the 230-page draft, the first cohort able to receive the vaccine will be 35,000 high-risk health workers and 11,000 first responders, followed by 40,000 individuals with underlying health conditions that put them at high risk, and 35,000 adults age 65 and older who live in congregate or overcrowded settings.

The document also outlines plans to take into account measures of social vulnerability and population differences to determine vaccine resources across the islands. With the requirement that the vaccine stay cold, the state expects supply chain challenges to be even more complicated than those encountered while trying to procure PPE.