Aloha all and Mahalo for your dedicated support this legislative session. We are happy to report that your government relations department was successful in meeting its primary legislative goals of passing a law to Mandate Colorectal Screening (colonoscopy screening), protect the Hawaii cancer research special fund, and protect funding for Tobacco Control Prevention & Cessation programs in the community.
Mandate Colorectal Cancer Screening – this Senate bill was sponsored by our ACS Hawai’i Pacific Board Vice-Chair, Senator Roz Baker. This new law will require health insurance companies to provide coverage for colorectal cancer screening using fecal occult blood testing, sigmoidoscopy, or colonoscopy for Hawai’i adults, beginning at age 50 years and continuing until age 75 years.
Save the Hawaii Cancer Research Special Fund -In government relations it is not always about passing a law. Sometimes it is about stopping a bill from becoming law or altering a bill before it becomes law. This was the case with Senate Bill 2695. The purpose of this bill was to address the budget shortfall by transferring funds from various State special funds to the State general fund. One version of this bill proposed to transfer $15 million from the Hawaii Cancer Research Special Fund to the State General Fund. The Hawaii cancer research special fund was established to build a permanent research facility for the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii. We were successful in removing the provision to take $15 million from the Hawaii cancer research special fund before this bill became law.
Save the Hawaii Tobacco Prevention and Control Trust Fund (monies from the Master Settlement Agreement) – In order to balance the State budget, one of the provisions in HB2542 proposed to take $43 million from the $50 million Hawaii Tobacco Prevention and Control Trust Fund. Working in very close collaboration with the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Hawaii (CTFH), American Heart Association, American Lung Association, community health centers, and tobacco control grantees, we were successful in deleting this provision in the bill. The whole $50 million remains intact. Another raid bill, HB2887, would have eliminated the yearly Master Settlement Agreement allocation ($3.2 million) to the Hawaii Tobacco Trust Fund. The bill was deferred in committee and is now officially dead.
Below is an update on other bills that we either supported or tried to defeat:
- SB2343, relating to additional insurance coverage for mammograms died in committee.
- HCR18, House sponsored concurrent resolution expressing support for the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii was passed.
- SCR40, Senate sponsored concurrent resolution regarding hexavalent chromium exposure was adopted. Hexavalent chromium is an occupational carcinogen that has been linked to lung cancer. This resolution asks the Department of Labor to educate workers who are at risk to take safety precautions, and to recommend to the legislature other chemical substitutes that could be utilized instead.
- SCR150, Mesothelioma Awareness Day was adopted. As most of you know Mesothelioma is a form of lung cancer that is caused by asbestos exposure.
- HB1985, Cigarette tax, this was another big victory for us. The legislature voted to increase the cigarette tax by an additional penny this year and again in 2011. The bill was signed into law by the Governor on April 28.
- SB1230 amended the definition of cigars and little cigars by weight and not ring size. It is expected that an additional $2 million in tax revenues will be generated.
- Various bills to allow smoking in bars were all defeated.
Access to Continued Care
SB2934 & HB2467, relating to Micronesian migrants, which would have provided ongoing medical assistance, including chemotherapy for Micronesian migrants were held in committee and are now dead. However, House resolution HR25 was passed, requesting the U.S. Congress to provide additional funds to migrant residents
SB2494 & HB2461, continuity in drug coverage when members change health plans died in conference committee when respective differences could not be resolved. These bills would have allowed continued access to brand named chemotherapy drugs for people who through no fault of their own had to switch their insurance drug coverage from one plan to another.
HB2769, relating to physicians, would have refunded all tuition and fees of University of Hawaii School of Medicine graduates for practicing in rural areas. The bill was held in committee.
Guam Tobacco Tax
To all our advocates on Guam, “Si Yu’us Ma’ase” for your work on helping to pass Bill 150, which took effect on April 6, 2010. The tax for a pack of cigarettes was raised from $1.00 to $3.00. In addition, depending on size, the tax on cigars will be increased from .40 cents to .50 cents. Not only will this bill decrease the smoking among Guam’s people, but it will also generate substantial revenues for the Guam Cancer Trust Fund, for screenings, treatment, and support services.
Finally, one last Mahalo, for all your emails and messages to our congressional delegation, asking them to support Health Care Reform, which President Obama signed into law on March 21, 2010. This law when fully implemented will ensure that everyone in our state will have access to affordable and comprehensive health care.
Most of the provisions will be phased in over the next four years. However some provisions will kick in immediately. This summer, Medicare beneficiaries who hit the “doughnut hole” will receive a $250 rebate to help with drug cost. Also, this summer there will be immediate help for uninsured individuals with serious pre-existing conditions via a National High Risk Pool.
Other important conditions that will also be phased in during the remainder of this year include:
- No Discrimination Against Children With Pre-Existing Conditions
- Dependent Coverage Extended Until Age 26
- Bans Lifetime Limits on Coverage, and
- Guarantees Coverage for Preventive Care
To see the Implementation Timeline and benefits provisions please click on the attachment below.
If you have questions regarding health care reform and its impact, please do not hesitate to contact George Massengale, Government Relations Director American Cancer Society Hawai’i Pacific, Inc. at 808.432.9149 or by email at George.Massengale@cancer.org.