Hawaii Legislative Report

The week of February 20 held few surprises for health policy proposals as bills move toward the March 3 first decking deadline.

Resolutions are now being introduced in greater numbers, including some that correspond to bills that were deferred this year pending additional information. Resolutions, which don’t have the force of law, often “encourage” state agencies to do something, request the state auditor to study something, or establish a task force to consider and advise on something.  Sometimes they express the mood of the legislature as in HCR 52, “Asserting the State of Hawaii’s Commitment to Diversity, Inclusiveness, Justice, Equality, Compassion, and Democratic Values in Response to the 2016 Presidential Election through the Spirit of Aloha.”

So far concurrent resolutions for health policy watchers include:

  • HCR 11, SCR 8, and SCR 45 encourage Med-Quest to implement an income disregard program for workers with disabilities.
  • HCR 33 and HCR 63 ask the auditor to conduct a sunrise review of the licensure and regulation of gerontologists (HB 431, which was deferred, and SB 541, which wasn’t heard, would have established requirements for licensing gerontologists).
  • HCR 46, SCR 56, and SCR 4 all deal with health care and homelessness. The first two call for an auditor’s study to assess the impact of using Medicaid funds to treat homelessness while SCR 4 declares homelessness to be a medical condition.
  • HCR 49 encourages the Board of Education to support its policy of educating teens about sexual behavior risks by distributing condoms in schools (the resolution cites a 2015 study showing Hawaii students to be among the least likely to use condoms).
  • HCR 56 and SCR 57 ask the Attorney General to study and advise the legislature on legal aspects related to surrogacy and gestational carrier agreements, which may or may not affect SB 502, which proposes to require insurance coverage for in vitro fertilization, including benefits for surrogates.
  • SCR 33 asks the Dept. of Health to convene a task force to advise on best practices related to treatment of sepsis, which is related to dengue shock syndrome, a top-of-mind concern, given Hawaii County’s 2016 dengue fever outbreak.
  • SCR 35 urges the board of the Employer-Union Trust Fund to include hearing aid benefits for retiree-beneficiaries.
  • SCR 36 calls for an audit of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in view of Hawaii’s lower than expected up-take rate.
  • SCR 37 asks the Dept. of Health to establish a rare disease task force.
  • SCR 38 urges the Governor to develop a program that provides financial assistance to cancer patients and their families.
  • SCR 39 asks for a ban on sexual orientation conversion therapy.
  • SCR 40 urges approval of legislative grants-in-aid and other support for rural hospitals.
  • SCR 54 asks the US Dept. of Veteran Affairs to provide equal access to treatment for veterans from Compact of Free Association

There will be many more to come:  The deadline for introducing resolutions is March 10.