Congressional candidate Kai Kahele’s health care platform

After Rep. Tulsi Gabbard announced her intention not to seek re-election to Congress, saying she wanted to focus on her presidential campaign to unseat President Donald Trump, all eyes in Hawaii’s second congressional district turned to state Senator Kai Kahele. 

 

Get the latest state-specific policy intelligence for the health care sector delivered to your inbox.

 

Hailing from a well connected family — his father is the late state Senator Gil Kahele, a friend of Hawaii’s former longtime United States Senator Daniel Akaka — Kahele proved to be a formidable challenger since announcing his bid to primary Gabbard last January.

Appointed to replace his late father, Kahele has represented Hawaii’s 1st Senatorial District since 2016. A combat veteran who boasts the endorsement of three former Hawaii governors, Kahele’s emergence in the race for Gabbard’s seat in 2020 is thought to have factored into her decision not to seek re-election. A poll released shortly before Gabbard’s announcement showed that “at least half of the voters in Gabbard’s district would prefer someone else in her House seat.”

Now the leading contender to become the next member of Congress for Hawaii 2nd Congressional District — his only challenger at the moment is a software engineer with no political experience — State of Reform has decided to take a look at where Kahele’s campaign stands on issues related to health care.

Health care is taking center stage in the 2020 Democratic Presidential Primary, highlighted by the chasm between candidates in favor of “Medicare-for-all” and candidates in favor of a “public option.”    

Below is a quick overview of Kahele’s stance on the issues being debated internally among Democrats, as reflected by the information his campaign has provided.

 

“Healthcare” vs “Medicare For All”

Under the issues section on Kahele’s campaign website, there is one page titled “Healthcare” and another, separate page titled “Medicare For All.”

The “Healthcare” page contains a single paragraph which talks about a “lack of access and coverage” in Hawaii. 

The term “access” has become a litmus test of sorts for progressives, who cite the rising cost of care as a serious issue even for people who already have coverage. For the more moderate wing of the Democratic party, including candidates in the 2020 Presidential race who prefer a “public option” to a single-payer system, “access” has been a long-championed, if rather ambiguous term.

Kahele’s “Medicare For All” page says,

“Kai supports a single-payer, ‘Medicare-for-all’ system that prioritizes quality holistic care, reduces the cost of prescription medication, does not deny access based on age, race, gender, income or any pre-existing condition and eliminates all co-pays and deductibles.”

On the subject of private insurance, the text also states, “America spends more per capita than all developed countries on healthcare because of private insurance that carries heavy administrative costs.”

The above statements from Kahele leave no doubt about his position in the context of his campaign. As it relates to “access,” voters in Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District might have a chance to see firsthand whether the term’s meaning shifts as it moves from the campaign stump to the halls of Congress.