Saturday, July 01, 2006


Governor's veto of bill limiting mercury in vaccinations would also kill the Hawaii Health Commission

Governor Linda Lingle, allegedly under pressure from the pharmaceutical industry and parts of the medical community, plans to veto SB 2133, usually described in news articles as a bill to limit the use of mercury preservative in vaccines. Parents of children with autism point to an increase in the incidence of the disorder that tracks the use of mercury in childhood vaccinations.

Unfortunately, due to mischief perpetrated by the state House, her veto will also kill the Hawaii Health Commission. As reported by the Star-Bulletin in a May 19 story,
The vaccine restrictions were added to a bill with the unrelated goal of establishing a Hawaii Health Commission.
Most subsequent news accounts focus only on the mercury issue and ignore that the bill was hijacked, so that a veto affects the earlier provisions in the bill as well.

Conveniently (?) a veto would derail progress on a single-payer health system and interrupt the work of the health care task force established by the previous session of the legislature and which has just wrapped up its work last month.

The loss of the Hawaii Health Commission and its $200,000 working budget has been "disappeared" even from the governor's website description of the bill on her list of candidates for a veto:
SB 2133 “ Relating to Health”

Explanation: This bill limits the use of vaccines that contain a preservative called thimerosal. The limit could adversely affect the ability of the medical community to provide inoculations to people in Hawai`i seeking protection from the flu and other communicable diseases. The bill is too general and does not focus on those thought most susceptible to thimerosal, namely very young children. The medical community has expressed significant concerns that this bill could have negative implications for the public health and safety of the community.
Read this and weep

The full text of the bill is available here. Although the governor talks only about mercury, her stone kills the other bird as well (and no thanks to the House for making this possible!). Here's what the citizens of Hawaii will lose:
Hawaii health commission; duties and responsibilities. (a) The commission shall be responsible for continuing the work of the governor's Hawaii health care task force of 2005, created by Act 223, Session Laws of Hawaii 2005, in the overall health planning for the State and shall be responsible for determining future capacity needs of health providers, facilities, equipment, and support services providers.

(b) The commission shall develop for all individuals in the State, a comprehensive health plan that includes:

(1) Establishment of eligibility for inclusion in a health plan;

(2) Establishment of all reimbursable services to be paid by the commission;

(3) Establishment of all approved providers of services in a health plan;

(4) Evaluation of health care and cost effectiveness of all aspects of a health plan; and

(5) Establishment of a budget for a health plan.
Many organizations have worked long and hard to convince the legislature to work towards a comprehensive health care system for all of Hawaii's citizens. The legislature followed up on last session's appointment of a health care task force by creating the Hawaii Health Commission to continue to the work.

A veto of this bill would not only allow mercury to be continued to be included in vaccines (google the issue and decide for yourself whether this is a good thing) but short-circuits progress toward some form of universal health care.

Sure, a Republican governor might be happy with this, but should the people of Hawaii, many of whom have no health insurance or who pay high premiums to cover their families, let the opportunity to have universal health coverage be defeated with this stealth veto?

You can call/fax the governor and tell her that SB2133 should not be vetoed. Tell her why.

Phone: 808-586-0034
Fax: 808-586-0006


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