In this month’s newsletter we feature a Hawai‘i’ State Center for Nursing report on education and the workforce, offer details on the Inflation Reduction Act’s impact on Hawaii, and highlight ongoing work from the Hawaii Abortion Collective.
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State of Reform
1. Center for Nursing releases education report
New data from the Hawai‘i’ State Center for Nursing offers a detailed perspective on the impact of nursing faculty shortages on the overall statewide health workforce. While the report notes that faculty shortages remain a distressing problem in Hawaii, it also finds that Hawaii’s faculty perform well on several quality guidelines utilized by state boards of nursing.
The report also details impacts on faculty stemming from COVID-19. Budget shortfalls during the first year of the pandemic caused the state to institute a hiring freeze and UH schools were not given authorization to fill newly vacant positions. “As a result, Hawai‘i’s schools of nursing reported losing 45 (15%) of their funded faculty positions between AY 19-20 and AY 20-21,” reads the report. Overall, the report says the statewide faculty vacancy rate jumped from 8% in academic year 2019-2020 to 11% the following year.
2. Inflation Reduction Act’s impact on Hawaii
Provisions in the recently-signed Inflation Reduction Act will usher in several new regulations aimed at lowering drug costs. In this piece, State of Reform Reporter Nicole Pasia details how certain provisions in the act—including Medicare’s new ability to negotiate certain drug costs—will specifically impact Hawaii residents.
Dr. Tim Halliday, a Research Fellow and Associate Professor at UHERO, says the timeline and limitations on Medicare negotiations will help maintain a balance between innovation and affordability for prescription drugs. “There’s no negotiation for the first few years that a drug hits the market, which is good, because it allows the drug company to hopefully recoup its R&D costs,” says Halliday. “The US has the most innovative pharmaceutical sector in the world, and it’s important that we try and get both—keep the innovation but keep prices relatively low.”
3. Q&A: Connie Liu, Legal Aid Society of Hawaii
The Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, which provides legal aid, health insurance, and housing assistance services to low-income and immigrant communities, recently received over $270,000 in federal funding as part of the 2022 CMS Navigator Cooperative Agreement Awards.
In this Q&A, Connie Liu, the Legal Aid Society’s Community Engagement Managing Attorney and key contact for the Navigator Cooperative Agreement Awards, details how the organization plans to use the funding to continue supporting its patrons. Liu also discusses the Legal Aid Society’s work with Med-QUEST in preparation for the end of the federal public health emergency and upcoming eligibility redeterminations
4. Hawaii releases comprehensive abortion care guide
The Hawai’i Abortion Collective recently released a first-of-its kind guide to accessing abortion care in the state. Although abortion remains legal in Hawaii after the US Supreme Court’s overturning of federal abortion protections, HAC aims to expand access to abortion care in the state, especially for underinsured or uninsured communities and in islands with no abortion providers.
The guide offers comprehensive resources for how to access and afford abortions regardless of insurance status. The guide also lists abortion funds that can support uninsured patients, information about abortion doulas, and resources for LGBTQIA+ abortion seekers and survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.
5. Hawaii may avoid fall COVID-19 surge
Hawaii has shown lower community levels of COVID-19 in recent weeks, prompting new guidelines from the Department of Education as kids head back to school. Projections from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation note that unlike 2021, hospital bed use for COVID-19 in Hawaii is currently not expected to surge in the fall.
The Hawaii Department of Health also announced this month that the state is expected to receive approximately 37,800 doses of bivalent booster vaccines, which target the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants of COVID-19, which currently make up 95% of cases in the state.