Tuesday, March 27, 2012


How to report on Hawaii Health Connector issues I’m involved in as an advocate?

by Larry Geller

It’s been quiet here because I’ve been busy. And also because I am not sure what to do with my dual role.

With my other hat on, as president of an advocacy organization, I’m working with several other consumer organizations to try and bring consumer representation to the Hawaii Health Connector, which, Supreme Court willing, will set the conditions for bringing insurance to Hawaii’s uninsured, currently numbering an estimated 100,000.

In setting up Hawaii’s health exchange, the devil is in the details. For example, should there be one risk pool for everyone (ensuring lower premiums) or should insurers be allowed to split the pool? If that happens, big corporations have the advantage and the little person is stuck with higher rates. 

As it is now, the board of the Connector, the only one set up as an independent non-profit in the entire country, is exempt from sunshine and ethics laws. And it is infested with insurance company representatives, including HMSA’s chief lobbyist (couldn’t the Governor have found someone else in HMSA to appoint other than their lobbyist??).

Now you see my problem. As a responsible representative of the advocacy organization, I could not say something like the paragraph above.

So what to do?  For the moment, while I ponder this, I’ll link to articles in the commercial media. For example, Richard Borreca’s column this morning,  New health board is off to an uncomfortable start (Star-Advertiser, 3/27/2012). I can only quote a snip. If you subscribe to the paper, please check the editorial section for the complete article.

Borreca has a way with words:

Last week the permanent board members, the same big insurance reps included, were approved by a Senate committee and appear headed for final confirmation.

At the same time, moving at counter purposes, the House is readying a bill that would forbid insurance reps on the board. The insurance reps could serve as advisers and make recommendations, but not vote.

Imagine if the state decided to set up a hamburger board that would proscribe how many and which hamburgers you could eat.

If the board’s majority was made up of McDonald’s, Burger King and Jack in the Box, any cheeseburger-loving soul would see that as a conflict. Especially if the burger boys set up the ethics rules guiding how the burger commission operated.

Yup, that’s where we are.

More later.


First, thank you for your continued advocacy for us the consumers!
Second, I hope you'll find a way to continue reporting on this critical issue.

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