Thursday, March 22, 2012


How to write testimony opposing insurance company participation in Hawaii’s health exchange

by Larry Geller

I should have written this earlier, my apologies.

In looking over the material in the newspaper or on the web asking that people submit testimony for tomorrow’s hearing asking the Senate committee not to confirm three insurance company appointees to the Hawaii Health Connector, it’s hard to tell who these three people are. The hearing notice only identifies them by name. It’s not like a wanted poster, where you’d be able to associate a name with the crime, for example.

Testimony should have been submitted by 9 a.m. today, but late testimony is accepted. So here’s the gang that needs to be removed. You can click on the GM number (Governor’s Message) to take you to a page where you can just type in some testimony, or send something longer by uploading a file.

GM625 Jennifer Diesman (HMSA)

GM624 Joan Danieley (Kaiser)

GM628 Faye Kurren (Hawaii Dental Service)

(a fourth, Harris Nakamoto, has withdrawn his nomination)

To submit testimony, just click on the link, and then click on the blue “Submit Testimony” button at the top. It’s easy! 

Do you really want the near-monopoly insurers to set rules and policies for the health exchange? I didn’t think so. So please send in some testimony.

It’s gonna be a tough fight. Your testimony is needed. The Chair of the committee seems strangely devoted to having HMSA and the other insurers in control of this board, which is charged with designing the health exchange which will make health coverage available to everyone in Hawaii.

As the Star-Advertiser pointed out:

There are 21 states that either prohibit or are in the process of blocking insurers with expertise in designing health plans, from actually being board members, according to the Primary Care Association, a group that advocates for community health centers. Other states have hired independent actuaries who previously worked for an insurer but no longer have a connection to the company, or economists and consultants. Insurers also serve as advisers in other states that prohibit them from sitting on the board.”

[Star-Advertiser, Red flags raised over setup of insurance exchange, p.D1 3/18/2012]

So this raises questions about the Chair, Sen. Rosalyn Baker’s, expected strong support for keeping the foxes in charge of designing the henhouse.

The consumer groups do recognize the expertise that health insurers bring to the table, but it should be a side table. The groups have recommended that the Hawaii Health Connector create an advisory board to take advantage of insurers’ expertise. [Disclosure again: I’m president of Kokua Council, one of the consumer groups pushing for these changes.]

If an advisory board is created, it would be open to all insurers, which should encourage competition. If HMSA doesn’t like that, they can duke it out with the others over in the corner someplace. The point is to give consumers a choice.

There will be a rally in the Capitol Rotunda at 8:15 tomorrow. If you can come, you can also go up afterwards to room 229 and give your testimony in person if you like. There should be signs available, or bring your own.

If you want to take an extra step, please call committee members to ask that they vote against the three nominees. Here are the phone numbers. Don’t worry, the Senators don’t answer the phone themselves, you usually get to leave a message with a staff member. If you’re a constituent (if you live in their district), good to say so.

Sen. Brickwood Galuteria 586-6740
Sen. Clarence Nishihara 586-6970
Sen. Malama Solomon 586-7335
Sen. Sam Slom 586-8420
Sen. Josh Green 586-9385
Sen. Brian Taniguchi (Vice Chair) 586-6460
Sen. Rosalyn Baker (Chair)

and here’s the list again. You have to ask them to vote “no” on each of these:

GM625 Jennifer Diesman (HMSA)
GM624 Joan Danieley (Kaiser)
GM628 Faye Kurren (Hawaii Dental Service)

Hawaii is the only state to have set this board up as an independent non-profit, which seems to exempt them from the Sunshine Law and ethics laws. Why? Unlike many other states, they have put insurers on the board. Why?

And why should we leave it that way? It’s time to make some changes.


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