5 Things Hawaii: Lawmakers’ health policy plans, workforce support solutions, and more coverage from our recent event!


Eli Kirshbaum


We want to thank everyone who attended for our 2023 Hawaii State of Reform Health Policy Conference last month! It was so great to be back in-person in Hawaii, and we already can’t wait for next year’s event!

To see a recap of the day, you can watch this “What You Missed” video that our Digital Media Specialist Alex Nelson put together.

In this month’s edition of “5 Things We’re Watching” in Hawaii, Reporter Shane Ersland covers a few of the many valuable panel conversations that took place during the conference. You’ll also find the full video of newly elected Gov. Josh Green’s opening keynote.

Thanks for your support!

Eli Kirshbaum
State of Reform


1. Gov. Josh Green outlines healthcare priorities

We were so honored to have recently elected Gov. Josh Green deliver the Lunch Keynote for our event. The governor discussed his top healthcare-related priorities, which include workforce recruitment in HPSAs through loan forgiveness. “If we tell people that anyone who comes to Hawaii to provide healthcare for our people will have their loans forgiven, I don’t think there will be any deserts at that point,” he said.

Green also plans to focus on supporting the state’s unhoused population. “Ten thousand go in and out of the state of homelessness, but 2,000 people have addiction, have mental illness, have PTSD, have been traumatized, and they can’t break the cycle unless we change the system,” he explained.



2. Legislators discuss 2023 health policy work

panel of healthcare-attuned state lawmakers talked through their legislative plans for this session during the conference, with House Committee on Human Services Chair Rep. John Mizuno saying he is pushing to make Medicaid reimbursement rates equal to those of Medicare. The current Medicaid reimbursement rate in Hawaii is 60% of the Medicare reimbursement rate.

Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole is focused on finding ways to support Hawaii’s healthcare workforce. “How can we do better in the state government to provide incentives for people in this space to stay in this space?” he asked. House Health & Homelessness Committee Chair Rep. Della Au Belatti is working to create more behavioral health pilot programs and on breaking the cycle of homelessness and incarceration.


3. Most effective workforce solutions include less reliance on travel nurses, high school recruitment

With Hawaii’s need for healthcare workers increasing by 76% since 2019, some of the state’s leading experts on workforce development conducted a panel to explore the most effective solutions. Hawaii Pacific Health’s Carl Hinson said his organization is focused on starting recruitment efforts at the high school level to fortify the workforce pipeline.

One of the main contributing factors to the workforce shortage, according to the panelists, is the increasing use of travel nurses—who are much more expensive to hire than local nurses. “Travelers don’t [know] the community’s culture and they cost a lot. So if we can move away from that and move into person-centered recruitment and retention, that does a lot,” Hawaii Center for Nursing Director Laura Reichhardt said.


4. Preventive services, value-based will be key to lowering Hawaii healthcare costs

During a panel focused on lowering the increasing cost of healthcare in the midst of inflation, Hawaii Insurance Commissioner Gordon Ito explained that a lack of care coordination, patients’ unhealthy lifestyle choices, and the significant need for care for the state’s sizeable aging population are all key drivers of costs in Hawaii.

Efforts to address some of these factors include The Queen’s Health System’s patient community care navigation program, in which navigators provide at-home care like ensuring medications are taken and monitoring health conditions so they don’t lead to higher-cost care. Hawaii Medical Service Association’s Matt Reeves noted that value-based payment models are an important part of the solution.


5. How to maximize the potential of predictive analytics

In order to effectively leverage predictive analytics to improve health outcomes, Hawaii first needs to break down communication barriers like unclear statewide health data collection standards and patient data sensitivity concerns. That’s according to last month’s panel on health data and how it can be more efficiently utilized, during which speakers specifically noted a lack of data collection for certain demographics.

Explaining that over half of collected health data in the state is missing information on race, gender, and ethnicity, HHIE‘s Al Ogata said, “When (staff) investigated, they found it wasn’t a technical issue. It was just that when the information was reported, it just wasn’t there. The information wasn’t made available to the facility.” Ogata and Derek Vale of DOH’s Behavioral Health Administration said incentivizing individuals to participate in data sharing will be a key piece of the puzzle.