5 Things Hawaii: Q&A w/ Sen. San Buenaventura, Detailed Agenda, Workforce shortage


Emily Boerger


We are excited to announce that we recently opened up registration for the 2022 State of Reform Federal Health Policy Conference. The event is coming up on February 17 and will be fully virtual, allowing attendees from across the country to participate!

This conference will feature conversations on federal health policy, innovations in the state-federal relationship, and learning labs for state-level successes. Early Bird Registration rates end tomorrow, so be sure to sign up now if you want to save a few bucks!

Emily Boerger
State of Reform


1. Q&A: Sen. San Buenaventura discusses legislative priorities

Sen. Joy San Buenaventura, who chairs the Senate Committee on Human Services and is a member of the Committee on Health, says support for early child care and education will be top of mind for her committee during the 2022 legislative session. San Buenaventura recently caught up with State of Reform for a conversation on the policies she will pursue in the coming year.

San Buenaventura also plans to prioritize extending the Ohana Zones pilot project, which has provided temporary shelter and various wraparound services to people experiencing homelessness since 2018. As of September 2021, the project has helped over 5,000 individuals across the state access services or secure permanent housing, and San Buenaventura says the project has been a key point of support during the pandemic.


2. Solutions to address the workforce shortage

According to a 2021 Nursing Education study, three of Hawaii’s counties—Kauai, Maui, and Hawaii—are among the top 15 counties in the nation with the highest primary health care worker shortages. State of Reform Reporter Nicole Pasia spoke with Hilo-based physician Dr. Scott Grosskreutz about the perfect storm of conditions that make Hawaii, as he describes it, the most “hostile health environment to practice in.”

Grosskreutz says a combination of high costs of living, the state’s general excise tax (GET), and an aging workforce are straining Hawaii’s health care workforce to the point where facilities are beginning to shut down. To address these issues, he says some health leaders are pushing for legislation to exempt providers from the GET tax, changes to the Medicare reimbursement model, and the creation of a reliable database to track the workforce shortage.


3. Detailed Agenda will be posted next week!

Next week we’ll release our Detailed Agenda for the 2022 Hawaii State of Reform Health Policy Conference! The list will include over 50 speakers who will come together on January 12 for one the largest, most diverse convenings of senior health care executives and policy leaders in the state.

Be sure to check out the Topical Agenda to get a feel for the day, as well as the Convening Panel to see some of the folks who are helping put the agenda together. If you haven’t registered to be with us yet, we’d be honored to have you join us!

4. Health leaders “cautiously optimistic” about controlling Omicron variant

The Hawaii Department of Health confirmed the first case of the Omicron variant in the state one week ago and has since announced two additional cases. Lt. Gov. Josh Green tells State of Reform, however, that health officials are “cautiously optimistic” they’ll be able to control the variant and that the state will continue its current vaccine and restriction protocols.

“Right now, most of the cases are still the Delta variant. [It’s] 99.9%, we’re told,” says Green. “We’re going to study each of the variants as they come out, and we will adjust the vaccination regimen if needed over time.” Despite a decline in the state’s vaccination rate stemming from a data input error, over 77% of the population has received at least one vaccine shot.

5. Hawaii outranks most states on health equity

A recent study from the Commonwealth Fund finds Hawaii is one of just six states that rank above average in health care for all measured racial/ethnic groups. Higher-than-average rates of cancer screenings and preventative visits, alongside lower-than-average uninsured rates, contributed to the state’s high rankings.

However, disparities still exist. While Hawaii’s health care system ranked above the national average for Latinx/Hispanic people (82nd percentile), it was significantly lower than white (95th percentile) and AANHPI (94th percentile) groups. The full report includes data on 24 different health indicators with rankings based on health outcomes, health care access, and quality of services.