Governor Neil Abercrombie has enacted House Bill 2275, which State Senator Josh Green (D-N and S Kona, N and S Kohala) says will help provide funding for Hawaii Island’s three main hospitals and two critical access hospitals as well as other hospitals in the state. Green is the only physician in the State Legislature, and head of the Senate Healthcare Committee. He said this was his committee’s most important bill in 2012.
The bill requires private hospitals, such as North Hawaii Community Hospital, to pay up to 3 percent of their receipts for patient care into a state fund. Federal regulations allow the state to then collect more from the federal government for Medicaid (which in Hawaii is called QUEST), which funds health care for the poor provided by not only private hospitals such as North Hawaii Community Hospital but Hawaii Island’s two public hospitals, Kona Community Hospital and Hilo Medical Center, as well. It is estimated that hospitals will pay $42 million in provider fees and get $77 million in return. The state will receive a 7 percent share, or about $2.8 million to fund critical human service programs. Private hospitals are expected to get back more than they contribute.
Initially the Governor had threatened to veto the bill over concerns expressed by the State Department of Human Services that they should be getting a bigger share of the return. However, Senator Green and Senator Malama Solomon (D-Waimea, Hamakua, Hilo) discussed the issue at length with the Governor and with his staffers about the importance of the bill to hospitals and providers on Hawaii Island and throughout the state.
“I respect the governor for signing this bill into law,” said Senator Green, who also works as an emergency room doctor at South Kohala Hospital, an affiliate of Kona Community Hospital. “It will bring in millions of federal dollars to keep our hospitals across Hawaii open and to help us hire needed new physicians.
Senator Green said the Governor did the right thing. When the Governor was on Hawaii Island for the Kona Independence Day Parade, he confirmed that he signed the bill on July 3.