Friday, April 14, 2006


Rep. Herkes defends the role of his corporate intern, digs deeper hole

Senate Bill 2917 started life as a simple bill, just removing the sunset provision of the insurance rate regulation bill. It's also an important bill, because the ability of the Insurance Commissioner to review and approve rate increases has saved Hawaii's employers millions.

Then it got to Rep. Herkes' committee. Compare the HD2 to HD1. What was a simple bill got filled with all kinds of stuff favoring the insurers. Fortunately the next committee took most of it out. The final bill (the HD3) is better, but it still seems to favor insurers more than the original.

So I filed a complaint, because Rep. Herkes' office harbors a corporate intern from HMSA Foundation.

In today's Star-Bulletin story, Executive's role as intern at Legislature questioned, reporter Richard Borreca reports that Rep. Herkes is defending himself against the complaint about his intern:
Herkes (D, Volcano-Kainaliu) said he is not in conflict and has avoided using Forman to help with legislation that touches on HMSA. . . . "As far as Mark is concerned, his biggest assignment from me was to find some way to provide medical coverage in rural areas," he said.
This is indeed an important assignment. The Big Island may already be in crisis (see, for example, this article in the Honolulu Advertiser by Dr. Barry Blum). As Dr. Blum points out, though, one of the biggest problems is the reduction in reimbursements by the insurance companies.

So how will Rep. Herkes' intern from HMSA even begin to work on the problem if he can't work on any legislation that touches on HMSA? Is he likely to report back to Rep. Herkes that something has to be done about HMSA's slashing reimbursement rates? Not likely at all, of course.

What could be worse than a potential conflict of interest would be Rep. Herkes protecting HMSA at the expense of his constituents. By assigning someone to the job of solving the medical care crisis on the Big Island who could not work on its major cause, he would be doing just that.


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