Tuesday, January 05, 2010


Governor’s op-ed opposing federal health care bills but for wrong reasons

by Larry Geller

Oh, this turned into a long rant. But someone has to say something. And you may not know of the planned cuts to community elder care services mentioned below.

There are plenty of reasons to oppose passage of the healthcare reform bills (really health insurance company benefit packages) hobbling through Congress. Governor Linda Lingle has her own take on it, expressed in an op-ed in today’s Honolulu Advertiser.

Rather than take it apart here, read it and note that even the gov recognizes that Medicaid services, the ones she doesn’t want to pay for, are providing a vital safety net during the economic crisis.

She notes that “Medicaid enrollment jumped by nearly 15 percent in 2009.” Yup, things are bad. And they could get worse. We’ll need any improvements we can get in Medicaid coverage. She complains that stimulus funds to support Medicaid will come to an end in 2011 but doesn’t say she will urge Congress to extend them.

Governor Linda Lingle has already slashed mental health and safety net services to the bone, yet she said in today’s op-ed that if Congress makes her increase Medicaid eligibility as part of the healthcare reform bills, she’ll have to cut other government services or raise taxes, neither of which is acceptable to her.

Some people are no doubt better at cutting budgets than others. Many of Lingle’s choice cuts have turned back against her. It wasn’t publicly acceptable to cut off dialysis and chemotherapy from Micronesian residents, for example. This is Hawaii, we don’t do such things to our neighbors. We just don’t.

Despite the shortage of nursing homes in Hawaii, the Lingle administration is about to slash services to the adult foster care program, an alternative to nursing homes that maintains frail elderly in the community at lower cost. A hearing on these cuts is scheduled for this Thursday. This and other Lingle cuts target the most vulnerable of our population.

Other damaging or unpopular cuts included cutting 94% of the Office of Elections budget, a strange move given that Hawaii needs to hold elections. Cutting agricultural inspectors, the vector control department, or reducing the number of school days to the lowest in the nation (thereby foreclosing Hawaii’s high-tech future, for one thing) also come to mind.

Lingle writes that raising taxes is unacceptable. True, her ideology prevents her from considering it. Even Ronald Reagan employed a mix of cuts and tax increases, I recall, but Lingle will not.

Is ideology more important than continuing services we are probably willing pay for? For example, mental health services that help consumers maintain themselves on medications and so reduce hospitalization and even police costs are services that most people would probably want to pay for. We have not been given that option, instead the services have been cut.

Some reports say that Lingle has cut mental health services an unacceptable 75%. Whether necessary or not in the current economic crisis, restoring some of these services would be a good, not a bad thing, if that’s what federal health care reform might achieve.

(Disappeared News readers just helped save the Molokai Clubhouse, by the way, by getting the administration to reverse one job cut that would have closed down services for everyone on the island.)

As to what taxes might be raised, another article in today’s paper cries out for a solution to the national obesity epidemic. Might not a Hawaii tax on sugary beverages both bring in revenue and reduce medical costs? One driver of health care costs is the increase in obesity leading to diabetes and other avoidable diseases. Fast-food vendors have set a dangerous trend--from the Advertiser article, originally from the Los Angeles Times, a snippet:

In 1955, [Dr. Marc Jacobson] said, McDonald's fries were 210 calories but the large portions more often consumed today are 500. A Coke was 6.5 ounces, versus 20 ounces in today's plastic bottles. No wonder, he said, that today U.S. kids have an obesity rate of 15%, and that another 15% are overweight. [Los Angeles Times, What is to blame for child obesity? 12/21/2009]

A per-ounce tax on these large-size drinks could give the General Fund quite a boost.

On a lighter note, opposite Lingle’s article was an alternative health care solution.

The Advertiser conveniently ran an ad for Himalayan Rock Salt Lamps right opposite Lingle’s article. This is a long-running ad, perhaps one of the Advertiser’s very best customers. It says it’s “A Gift For Someone Who Has Everything,” by which perhaps it means the ailments listed just below, including migraine headaches, muscle cramps, computer radiation, backaches, insomnia, arthritis, blemishes, gout… and that’s only a few it lists.

Hawaii may not need healthcare reform after all if that solution really works. You can believe it if it’s in the Advertiser, right?


crying shame! It is the end of the world we once knew! This is change, huh, more like suffer, you fools.

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