Health–E–Bytes

April, 2007

Dr. Green’s Legislative Prescription

Big Island physician Josh Green is on a crusade to fix Hawaii’s ailing healthcare system and his medical credentials bolster his influence as chair of the House Health Committee.

“We’ve gone past the point of no return on healthcare,” Green warns. “We either have to invest in our healthcare system or watch parts of it close down and prepare for the fallout.”

Green’s prescription involves reinvesting general excise tax revenues paid on medical care back into the system. He would use that money to extend health insurance coverage and help rural hospitals and emergency care providers. To retain doctors, Green advocates a combination of increased reimbursements, loan repayments and tort reform.

Although Green’s proposal calls for putting up to $100 million a year into the “healthcare reinvestment fund,” he says he’d be satisfied to start with $10 million and phase in the spending over time.

“You’re seeing Kahuku close, you’re seeing specialists leave. If we don’t wake up and take heed and pass some of these measures in fact most of them — we will not see a reversal of that trend.”

Green’s strategy for passing bills involves bridging political differences. “I don’t see a party line or a different sponsor of the bill,” he explains. “I just see a hospital in trouble or a doctor that’s going to leave or a patient that’s not getting care.”

He sees it firsthand. Even during the busy session, Green manages to cover weekend shifts in the emergency room.

Business Has It Covered

Out of the 50 states and the Disctrict of Columbia, Hawaii ties for fifth in the percent of residents covered by employer-paid health insurance. It ties with two other states for the lowest rate of uninsured residents in the nation.

Here is how Hawaii compares to the national average for public and private sources of health insurance:

Docs for Dollars

While politicians attempt to close gaps in health insurance coverage, a recent arrival to Hawaii’s business community is broadening access to medical care, for a fee.

New York City-based Flagship Global Health (OTC:FGHH.PK) recently opened an office at Waterfront Plaza in Honolulu, which will be overseen by returning kamaaina John Hedlund.

Flagship promises to help its members navigate the healthcare industry’s complex maze and obtain topnotch care for any medical condition. Flagship doesn’t take the place of health insurance, but guarantees its members timely access to its worldwide network of physicians, made up of leading specialists. Membership also includes emergency care, electronic patient records and a Global Health ID.

Annual membership fees start at $750 for individuals and $1,400 for families. Flagship currently has about 1,200 members. Flagship also offers corporate and group plans.

Bank of Hawaii is the first local company to offer Flagship’s services to its customers. Bankoh’s Senior Executive Vice President Shelley Thompson says, “We understand that all the wealth in the world has little meaning without good health. We selected Flagship based on their extensive geographic service areas and the quality selection process used for their physician network.”

Flagship is building a physician network here in Hawaii, but Hedlund says members often travel for treatment. “If you have a health scare, you want to make sure you’re with the absolute best doctor,” Hedlund explains. “You want the doctor who’s done not 50, but 5,000 procedures and has a good bedside manner.”

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Author:

Colette P. Fox