Thursday, January 29, 2009
Recognizing the mounting healthcare crisis facing our state, Representative Jon Riki Karamatsu (D41-Waipahu, Village Park, Waikele), Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, has introduced a healthcare package comprised of eight bills, each addressing different issues that medical professionals have faced over the years, and cite as reasons for the increasing doctor shortage and rising cost of care in Hawai‘i.
The eight bills, collectively called the Hawai‘i Doctor Recruitment and Retention Action Plan (HI-DRRAP) 2009, cover issues ranging from a comprehensive task force study and strategic plan to the re-establishment of the Patient Compensation Fund.
Those proposals include:
* Re-establishing the patient compensation fund
*Changing the make-up and duties of the medical claims conciliation panel
*Creating a cap on non-economic damages, tax credits for physicians serving in rural areas, a tort cap for specialty doctors such as neurologists
*Amending the duties of the Hawai‘i healthcare primary incentive program
*Convening a task force to develop a comprehensive strategic plan
*Establishing an office of state coordinator of health information exchange in order to advance efforts to create a statewide health information exchange network
“Healthcare is an essential component in our society because it affects everyone,” said Rep. Karamatsu. “We cannot afford to continue losing doctors, especially for the under-served and rural areas of the state, and tort reform is not the only answer. That is why we decided to introduce such a diverse package.”
“Physicians play an important role in our healthcare system in Hawai‘i and the House Health committee is exploring a wide variety of options that support our local doctors,” said Rep. Ryan Yamane, Chair of the House Health Committee. The bills are expected to first be assigned to the House Health Committee.
In the 2008 legislative session, a tort reform measure failed to be voted out of the House Judiciary Committee.
“I’m optimistic that we will make progress on this issue in the House this year,” said Rep. Karamatsu.
RELATING TO NON-ECONOMIC CAPS (HB 1784)
Establishes a $750,000 aggregate and $250,000 individual cap on non-economic medical malpractice damages, and allows for a $3,000,000 cap on non-economic medical malpractice damages when gross negligence is involved. Also establishes caps on attorney fees.
RELATING TO PATIENT COMPENSATION FUND (HB 1515)
Re-establishes the Patient Compensation Fund in the state of Hawai‘i so that the state’s healthcare providers can have stable and reasonable surcharge rates that are sufficient to fairly compensate legitimate victims of medical malpractice.
RELATING TO THE MEDICAL MALPRACTICE TASK FORCE (HB 1785)
Creates a medical malpractice task force who shall review all of the various reasons that makes it difficult for doctors to be able to afford to live and work in Hawai‘i and explore alternative solutions, including those used in other states and on a national level. Requires the task force to develop a strategic plan and present it to the 2010 Hawai‘i State Legislature.
RELATING TO TORT CAPS (HB 1514)
Establishes medical malpractice insurance rate caps for highly-needed specialty doctors such as neurologists and neurosurgeons.
RELATING TO RURAL PHYSICIAN TAX CREDITS (HB 1317)
Creates a tax credit on medical malpractice insurance rates for physicians willing to serve in rural/under-served areas in the state.
RELATING TO THE MEDICAL CLAIMS CONCILIATION PANEL (HB 1783)
Amends the composition and duties of the Medical Claims Conciliation Panel (MCCP), increases the filing fees, allows for evidence and statements from MCCP hearings to become admissible to jury hearings and establishes a benevolent exemption prohibiting signs of sympathy from being perceived as admissions of guilt.
RELATING TO THE HAWAII HEALTHCARE PRIMARY INCENTIVE PROGRAM (HB 1511)
Revises chapter 321-1.5, Hawai‘i Revised Statutes, primary health care incentive program, by adding health information technology, health information exchange and a doctor exchange database to their list of duties.
RELATING TO HEALTH INFORMATION EXCHANGE (HB 1782)
Creates an Office of State Coordinator of Health Information Exchange within the Department of Health to coordinate local efforts, identify funding sources, and integrate state health programs and eventually the National Health Information Technology Network (NHIN) for the State of Hawai‘i.