5 Things Hawaii: Health budget requests, Economic outlook, What you missed


Emily Boerger


Last month we were honored to host the 2022 Hawaii State of Reform Health Policy Conference, which brought together a diverse group of some of the most senior health care executives and health policy leaders in the state.

In this edition of “5 Things We’re Watching,” we feature several of the keynotes, conversations, and breakout sessions that took place at the event. And, in case you missed it, we put together a highlight video that features the sights and sounds from the day.

As always, thanks for reading!

Emily Boerger
State of Reform


1. Keynote: Health care’s role in Hawaii’s economic outlook

Representing unique perspectives in Hawaii’s economic landscape, three executives shared their thoughts on how the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the state’s welfare and communities during our Lunch KeynoteRay Vara, president and CEO of Hawaii Pacific Health, John Fink, president and CEO of Aloha United Way, and David Lassner, president of the University of Hawaii, joined the panel for an insightful conversation.

One long-term solution to increase economic efficiency in the health care system, says Vara, is to disincentivize emergency care in favor of high quality preventative care. “We will know we’ve succeeded when the value of an empty hospital bed is greater than the value of an occupied hospital bed because we have done something meaningful to change the health of the population,” he said.

2. Budget requests aim to address ‘chronically underfunded’ public health sector

The Hawaii Department of Health and Hawaii Health Systems Corporation presented their FY 2023 supplemental budget requests to the Senate Ways & Means Committee last month. State of Reform Reporter Nicole Pasia highlights key provisions in their requests, including $26.1 million to maintain workforce fringe benefit increases.

A number of divisions within DOH presented requests that would address workforce shortages, expand behavioral health and substance abuse programs, and support long-term care. Funding requests include $3.6 million for early intervention services for infants and toddlers, $1.5 million for the Kupuna Caregiver Program, and $627,840 to re-establish some functions of the Health Promotion and Education Branch within DOH.


3. Video: How social determinants impact our ohana

Finding ways to support a coordinated system and to connect individuals to community-based organizations are critical components of addressing the social determinants of health. That’s according to panelists who spoke on our “How social determinants impact our ohana” breakout session, which we’ve made available to view in full here.

The ultimate goal of community-based care, said Moloka’i Community Health Center CEO Helen Kekalia, is to lift vulnerable communities out of poverty. “People do not live in individualized vacuums. Although the health sector is built that way and we tend to operate that way, our ohana units are not. They’re multi-layered individuals with multi-level complexities.”

4. Education system aims to support workforce

Hawaii’s higher education institutes are utilizing new training programs and worker recruitment efforts to help address the state’s health care workforce challengesThis piece dives into the details of some of these initiatives, including a collaboration that has so far trained over 500 contact tracers and 130 community health workers as of late 2021.

Another program, developed in collaboration between UH Community Colleges and the City and County of Honolulu, provides subsidized job training opportunities for those looking to transition to new jobs during the pandemic. So far, the program has trained hundreds of participants to fill certified nursing assistant, pharmacy technician, phlebotomy, and patient services jobs.


5. Women’s Legislative Caucus announces 2022 bill package

The Hawaii Women’s Legislative Caucus announced its 2022 bill package last week. Twenty-six members from both chambers and parties convened to work on eight bills that focus on increasing women’s safety, access to health care, and education.

Health-related legislation includes SB 2634, which would extend Medicaid coverage for postpartum beneficiaries from 60 days to 12 months. Another bill, SB 2635, aims to increase coverage for breast cancer screenings in an effort to reduce poor health outcomes, particularly for women of color. Both bills have been referred to committee.