Democratic primary gubernatorial candidates light on health care direction

In a staunchly Democratic state such as Hawai’i, it is widely believed that the Democratic Primary winner for the governor’s seat will roll forward to the executive office. Until four years ago, when Governor Ige unseated incumbent Gov. Neil Abercrombie in the August primary, incumbency seemed like a sure win. With polling getting tighter as the primary draws near, neither gubernatorial candidate has devoted much campaigning to health care issues. Nevertheless, here’s a glimpse of each candidate on the issues.


Though the candidate has not fleshed out much in terms of future priorities, he promotes  an “accessible and affordable health system for all Hawai’ians.” On health care Ige is largely running on his past record of accomplishments including:

  • Approving funding for Kupuna Care, aiding full-time family caregivers who also have full-time jobs to tap into community resources;
  • Leading Hawaiʻi  to become the first state in the country to raise the smoking age to 21;
  • Increasing funding and focus on mental health treatment; and
  • Supporting Housing First initiatives that address the social determinants of health.


Having served Hawaii in U.S. Congress from 2011 to 2015 and then again from 2016 to present, Representative Hanabusa does not have the local health care record of Governor Ige. However, her platform is more prospective, though still very general, focused on “Facing future challenges of health care.” In Congress, Hanabusa has remained strong on protecting the Affordable Care Act, supporting Social Security, and Medicare/Medicaid. Stated campaign priorities consist of:

  • Helping the state adjust to the dramatic changes in both the nature and delivery of health care and coverage;
  • Fighting to protect Hawai’i’s Prepaid Health Care Act;
  • Opening Legislature’s Affordable Health Insurance Working Group’s report as well as Hawai‘i’s ERISA exemption to the public; and
  • Finding ways to protect and improve healthcare for Hawai‘i’s kupuna, keiki, and veterans, by funding programs that meet their unique needs.

The candidates have been criticized by some, most notably former gubernatorial candidate Clayton Hee, for their emphasis on economic and transportation initiatives to the expense of health care, affordable housing and education.