An update on health policy bills in Hawaii

With Hawaii’s 2018 legislation session officially at an end, here is an update on the fate of some of the bills we’ve been tracking since January and a rundown on other health-related bills that passed this year.

ACA Protections:

This year, the legislature attempted to pass several bills aimed at protecting certain aspects of the Affordable Care Act.

SB 2340, which passed out of the House and Senate unanimously, ensures certain benefits guaranteed under the ACA remain preserved under Hawaiian law. These benefits include health coverage for children up to 26 years old, coverage of pre-existing conditions, and prohibiting gender discrimination in determining premiums.

Also passing unanimously out of the House and Senate was HB 1520, a bill that prohibits insurers from renewing or re-enrolling individuals in “a short-term, limited-duration health insurance policy or contract if the individual was eligible to purchase health insurance through the federal health insurance marketplace during an open enrollment period.” The Trump administration announced plans to expand these type of insurance plans, which are not subject to ACA rules, back in February.

In response to the repeal of the federal individual mandate, Senators Baker and Rhoads put forth a proposal for Hawaii to create its own mandate. SB 2924, which would have established an individual mandate for certain qualified taxpayers, passed out of the Senate but ultimately stalled in the House Finance committee.


Several pieces of legislation to address the opioid epidemic were also put forth this year, with several passing out of both chambers.

HB 1602 will require warning labels describing the risk of addiction and death to be placed on all opioid packaging. Similarly, HB 2244 will require health care providers to adopt policies of informed consent when prescribing opioids in certain circumstances where there are increased risks of dependency. The bill also establishes limits for concurrent opioid and benzodiazepine prescriptions.

SB 2247, which also passed in the legislature, authorizes pharmacists to provide individuals at risk for opioid overdose, as well as their family members or caregivers, with opioid antagonists such as naloxone.

SB 2407 will allow the use of medical cannabis to treat opioid use and withdrawal symptoms.

Medical aid in dying:

This year, the medical aid in dying bill passed out of the House by a vote of 39-12 and out of the Senate by a vote of 23-2. The bill will allow adult residents with a terminal illness and less than six months to live to obtain a prescription to end their life. Similar bills have been introduced in the legislature for many years, and this year opponents and supporters debated the bill extensively. When signed into law, Hawaii will join five other states and the District of Columbia in legalizing medical aid in dying.

Other bills:

Other health-related bills that gained traction during the 2018 session but ultimately failed to pass include SB 3104, a bill regulating prescription drug prices, SB 2199, a bill to explore the possibility of a state reinsurance program, and HB 1676/SB 2658, two bills appropriating funds for the purchase and operation of new ambulances.