Some of my thoughts on what ails the Democratic Party of Hawaii and related politics.
Yesterday was a day of opposites. A day of ups and downs. At different times yesterday, I was in tears and heartbroken. In other moments, my heart was filled with hope and love and optimism.
In the morning, I attended a memorial service for my friend and mentor, Flo Kong Kee. She was one of the first people I met when I first got involved in local politics. I was a foreigner. I was a haole from Kansas who wanted to work to make Hawaii (and the world) a better, more equitable place for everyone.
Flo welcomed me, mentored me, and listened to me. She had more love for Hawaii and its people, culture, and land more than anyone else I met here. She was more determined, driven, and filled with aloha than anyone else I worked with. When she struggling with personal illness, when she was worn-out, was on the losing end of important battles, she was never bitter. She was never without hope. Even in those times, especially in those time, she was always smiling, optimistic and thinking about what comes next.
We didn’t always agree on issues, on policy priorities or how to reach our goals. But I never doubted her commitment to working people, to making Hawaii better for everyone.
She was taken from us far too early. And I regret never sharing with her how much she meant to me and how much I valued and respected her.
After the memorial, I walked a few blocks through Waikiki back to where the Kuleana Academy was meeting. And I spent a good portion of the rest of the day with the group participating in the third cohort. The people in this group come from all over the state, from different backgrounds, from different experiences.
I also participated in Kuleana Academy earlier in the year, learning and growing with a wonderful and dynamic group of people.
Yesterday and during previous weekends, I sat in the back of the room, listening to this group of people talking story, questioning each other and learning from each other. I talk to this current cohort and smile and feel inspired.
Then, as the sun set and the day crept to its conclusion, I witnessed their graduation from the program. And I couldn’t help but be hopeful for our future. I am so excited to continue to get to know this fantastic group of people and work with them for the betterment of Hawaii and the most disadvantaged of those who live here.
It was a hard and hopeful day. I will miss Flo and am sad she isn’t here to help us shape a better future for Hawaii, but we will persevere. Imua!
The last few weeks have been hectic, so I haven’t had an opportunity to record any new music videos. But, I graduated from Kuleana Academy this past weekend (I’ll be writing a separate post about that soon), so I may have a bit more flexibility in time going forward.
Today, while walking to and back from lunch, I listened to last week’s Intercepted podcast. There was a portion that talked about Reverend Martin Luther King’s speech given 50 years ago. That particular segment of the podcast was particularly interesting. Both inspiring and a bit sad.
So, in honor of the great man on this anniversary of his “Beyond Vietnam — A Time to Break Silence” speech, as well as the anniversary of his assassination a year later, I’m putting this here for everyone to listen to.
Some of my friends and colleagues have been opposing bills which would abolish the Hawaii Health Authority (HHA). The HHA was established back in 2009 “to develop a comprehensive plan to provide universal health care in Hawaii.” Unfortunately, while the Legislature established the HHA, it and three different Governors have neglected to give them any funds for staffing, etc.
I believe those good people opposing Senate Bill 977, among others, are missing the forest for the trees. Abolishing the HHA doesn’t close the door on universal health care in Hawaii, but rather changes how the State might go about creating a plan.
And while they bird-dog the HHA issue, they have, neglected to pay attention to other, more damaging bills. House Bill 407 is just one example, that I became aware of myself just the other day.
The bill, Relating to Insurance,
Authorizes the issuance of employer-sponsored high deductible health. Requires maintenance of health savings accounts in conjunction with high deductible health plans. Requires the employer to fund deductible costs. Specifies that employers and insurers that buy or sell high deductible health plans remain subject to the Prepaid Health Care Act.
This is a bad, a dangerous bill.
Currently, Hawaii has no high deductible health care plans. In fact, I believe the State had previously asked for a specific waiver from the ACA partly to avoid having to create such a plan. But now, the Legislature is considering reversing course.
The bill’s upside would mean insurance premium cost savings for employers who opt for these high deductible plans. It also allows for the creation of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).
Put another way, the bill shifts health care costs from employers to their employees by requiring high deductibles. So, the hotel industry, for example, while doing gangbusters with high occupancy rates and higher room rates, wants to keep more of that money by cutting benefits to their employees.
Make no mistake, that’s exactly what this bill does. By reducing their premium costs, they are also forcing their employees to pay more out-of-pocket before their insurance kicks in. Sure, workers may save some money with the assistance of HSAs, but in the long run they will be paying more while their employers are increasing their profit margins.
Intended to makes people more discerning about why and how often they see their doctor, high deductible plans actually reduce positive health care outcomes for people. That’s because high insurance deductibles serve as disincentives for people to seek health care.
Only employers benefit from high deductible insurance plans.
Hopefully HB407 will become one of hundreds of bills that won’t make it to the finish line. Until then, I encourage you to take a look at the bill, spread the word, and do what you can to oppose it and others like it.
Six years ago today, I was lucky to witness first hand the four years of work come to fruition with the signing of Senate Bill 232 as Act 1 of 2011. Civil Unions had become the law in Hawaii.
At the time, I was unemployed, but volunteering in Governor Abercrombie’s Policy Office, so I was able to attend the signing ceremony at Washington Place as Part of the Governor’s Office. I didn’t have to scramble for a ticket and was able to witness history without depriving someone else the opportunity.
It was a proud day for me and for so many others who had worked so hard to get to that point. There aren’t many things in my life of which I am more proud to have been a part.
Of course, a little less than three years later, marriage equality would become law. I was lucky to have been in attendance for that signing ceremony as well, but that’s for another time.