Tuesday, April 03, 2012
Senate poised to vote on Governor’s health insurance nominees to Hawaii Health Connector this morning
by Larry Geller
Update: The Senate approved all ten nominees on the floor today (Tuesday, 4/3/2012)
Unless there is great public protest, the approval of Governor Abercrombie’s appointees to the Hawaii Health Connector, including the three controversial insurance company nominees, could happen during a Senate floor session beginning at 11:30 a.m. today. The necessary one-day notice for a floor vote was given yesterday.
At the same time, SB2434, which could change the makeup of the Connector, has been deferred for decisionmaking until Tuesday. It would seem that the best course of action for the Senate would be to defer consideration of the appointees
The names go to the floor after the Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee voted out the nominees. Normally, this is routine, and opposition testimony is rare. But not in this instance. The hearing room was packed, with standees near the door.
As the video below shows, the Chair of the committee, Sen. Rosalyn Baker, refused to take public testimony on the first nominee (disclosure: I had my hand up to give testimony for Kokua Council, of which I am president). She then negated opposition testimony altogether by requiring the committee to vote on all of the appointees at once. See what you think.
What to do? If you feel as I do, call Senate President Shan Tsutsui and ask that the three insurance company nominees (GM624, GM625 and GM628) not be approved today, or that a vote on these three be deferred until the makeup of the board is resolved by SB2434. There’s no reason to rush the approval today. Phone:586-7344 fax: 586-7348 or email email@example.com.
“GM” means “Governor’s Message.” Those are the “bill numbers” for the Kaiser, HMSA and Hawaii Dental appointees.
Why reject these appointees? At base, they have an unavoidable conflict of interest. They work for the insurance companies that will benefit economically from the decisions made by this board. And why, if the Governor had to appoint someone to the Connector board from HMSA, did he choose their chief lobbyist instead of someone else with knowledge of health insurance?
But the process issues of their confirmation are also troubling, and good reason for the Senate not to rush their approval.
On Friday, March 23, Senator Rosalyn Baker strong-armed approval of the nominees through her committee. She didn’t allow testimony from the public waiting in the room to speak until confronted by a member of the audience. And even then, she interrupted those who did come forward to testify against the nominees. Example: she would not let me refer to information in a Star-Advertiser article I brought with me.
Finally, Sen. Baker directed the committee to vote on all the nominees at once, denying them the chance to vote down any particular nominees.
Meanwhile, the Sargent at Arms was present in the room, intimidating to peaceful testifiers.
For the record, this is the full, unedited, nearly 2-hour-long video from which the above is snipped.