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Thursday, August 01, 2013
August 1, 2013 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 2:19 PM :: 3048 Views

More than 1,000 Kauai Farmers Speak Out Against Bill 2491

Contract Dispute Knocks Hawaii News Now off DISH Network

HMSA, Kaiser Will Monopolize State Health Exchange, 'Rate Shock' Predicted

SA: The federal health reform law known as Obamacare aims to boost competition in the medical insurance market and drive down costs by making it easier for consumers to compare policies offered by different companies.

In most states consumers will be comparing policies from five or more carriers when their versions of a health connector, an online marketplace for medical insurance, goes live on Jan. 1, the Obama administration said Wednesday.

But not so in Hawaii.

The Hawaii Health Connector will have only two medical insurers, Hawaii Medical Service Association and Kaiser Permanente Hawaii.

"There's a lack of competition in the state of Hawaii, period," said Rick Budar, the Connector's chief marketing officer. "At this point, there are no other medical carriers that have submitted plans to the state. We are definitely trying to get more competition in the state. There are a number of carriers that have expressed interest. That's one of the missions: to create more competition and a level playing field. Through the ACA (Affordable Care Act) and the efforts of the Hawaii Health Connector, it may spur more competition moving forward. That is the hope."

Other insurers — including University Health Alliance and Hawaii Medical Assurance Association — have decided not to participate on the exchange, some citing the difficulty in competing with the largest health plans in the state and uncertainty as to the size of the potential market.

Hawaii has relatively few health insurance companies in part because for-profit insurers are subject to a state premium tax, an issue that in 2010 drove Summerlin Life & Health Insurance Co. out of business here.

Without more competition, Hawaii consumers may find rates going up once the law takes effect.

HMSA executives have warned consumers of "rate shock" as the law rolls out next year because there will be a pent-up demand for medical services among people who haven't had health insurance, as well as fees for operating on the exchange — costs that will be passed on in consumers' health plan rates.

read ... State law limits competition among health insurance companies

Buying Influence: Usual Suspects give Abercrombie $860K

Race to the Bottom: Hawaii Battles for Film Production With Incentives

Variety: Since enacting a 15%-20% tax credit in 2006, Hawaii has attracted a string of high profile productions, including “Tropic Thunder,” “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” “Battleship,” “The Descendents” and CBS’ “Hawaii Five-0,” which recently began productions on its fourth season.

But with other tropical locales such as the Dominican Republic, Malaysia and Fiji establishing generous incentives, and Puerto Rico juicing its own last year with an added a 20% credit for above-the-line talent, Hawaii was losing its competitive edge. So earlier this year the state Legislature enacted a new law, effective July 1 and retroactive to Jan. 1, bumping the tax credit 5% across the board to 20% for shoots on Oahu, which hosts the bulk of production, and 25% on the neighboring islands, and extending credit’s sunset date from 2015 to 2019.

“The timing of the increase was very opportune,” says Honolulu Film Office commissioner Walea Constantinau. “It allowed shows that were either on the fence or needed a little bit more to come to the island.”

That includes a trio of features coming this fall: Tim Burton’s “Big Eyes,” Angelina Jolie-directed “Unbroken,” and writer-director Cameron Crowe’s romantic comedy “Deep Tiki,” starring Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams and Bradley Cooper.

“Godzilla” made the decision to come to Hawaii in November, before the improved incentive was approved. Although several set pieces in the film were scripted for Hawaii, producers considered raining destruction on other seemingly cheaper tropical locales, including Puerto Rico, which offers a 40% tax credit. But in the end it was decided that shooting the scenes elsewhere would be penny wise and pound foolish.

read ... Hollywood Likes Free Money

HPD plans to use license plate reading technology

HNN: After one unsuccessful attempt Honolulu Police plan to try again to use cameras capable of reading multiple license plates a second.

Police Department's in other cities across the country say the technology has helped recover stolen cars and catch wanted criminals. But opponents say it also catches too much information....

HPD already started using one last year, but three months later it was damaged beyond repair. Now the Department is buying more and will have them in use again within a year.

However the ACLU has privacy concerns because the system also collects data on where people go and how often they frequent places which the ACLU says is a violation since the overwhelming majority of cars are not part of a crime.

"I think it would be better if as they're driving around and they're collecting the information if nothing comes up then it would just dump your information and only save the plates that something is flagged for," said Anderson. "If they are going to try and get the public interested in that they should be very clear on what their policy is going to be in terms of the data they are taking."

HPD is still working on its policy on how long data will be kept and what it will do with it. But it does say it will not share the information with anyone.

read ... HPD plans to use license plate reading technology

Why Is Hawaii's Technology 'Mess' Taking So Long to Fix?

CB: Sonny Bhagowalia, who has been Hawaii’s IT czar for two years, has laid out a comprehensive plan to propel the state into the 21st Century. But he said it won’t come to fruition without funding — or at least not as fast as it should....

Barely 1 percent of the $11 billion state operating budget last year went toward the digital initiative, Bhagowalia said. Best practices call for 3 percent to 5 percent, he added, and the federal government allocates roughly 10 percent....

Lawmakers appropriated $20.3 million from the general fund for the current fiscal year, which started July 1, for Bhagowalia to run his Office of Information Management Technology. They gave him two dollars for every three that he requested. In 2015, his office is set to receive $15.1 million, less than half of what he wanted.

The Legislature did approve all $30 million in bond funding that the digital office wants for the initiative’s flagship program, an Enterprise Resource Planning system that will transform the state’s business processes. The new program will integrate 126 systems, including how the state makes purchases, pays its staff and tracks its business....

City: 42 Days to Record Safety Inspection, Still Can't Accept Credit Cards

read ... Some Questions Answer Themselves

Trash pickup delays, 6 of 7 city trucks out of service

HNN: Trash is scheduled for pick-up at Kulana Knolls every Monday, but no one showed up this week and residents say this wasn't the first time.

"We don't even get phone calls saying that they're not going to make it and it's been like that for a year and a half now," explained Pua Edayen, Kulana Knolls' office manager who oversees all 248 units.

"I believe there's only three [front-end loaders] that they have at the Pearl City yard that covers from Aiea to Waianae, and apparently, a week and a half ago, three of the trucks were broke down. Nobody had rubbish picked up," said Edayen. ...

"This past year, the Mayor did put in his budget to order more front-end loaders but Council denied it, so that's why it's frustrating for everybody, but I'm hoping they have patience with us," explained Kahikina....

Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi says the city needs to establish a set of standards and criteria to determine who should be eligible for free city pickup.

"We're trying to make it so that the average resident doesn't have to pay for trash pick-up -- extra for trash pick-up-- but with multi-family units maybe we'll have to look at having them pick-up through a private hauler," said Kobayashi.  "Things are getting tough now, so we have to watch our pennies and we have to draw lines as to who gets pick up and who has to hire private companies."

Kobayashi says the Council has tried unsuccessfully to pass a bill that would charge residents for trash pick-up, as they do in other Hawai'i counties and on the mainland.

"We're a population of nearly a million people and trash pick-up is such a problem and we want to do it as efficiently as possible, but it may be that we're not going to have enough money to continue this," explained Kobayashi.

Kahikina says the city is working to fill 23 positions for its Refuse Division, which will cover both regular trash pick-up and bulky item collection.  In the meantime, the Department of Facility Maintenance says four front-end loaders should be up and running by Thursday morning.

read ... Trash pickup delays, 6 of 7 city trucks out of service

Pro Bowl changes look good for Hawaii

SA: NFL will make major changes to keep the Pro Bowl in business, and that those changes are drawing some positive reaction in the sports world.

The league and the NFL Players Association agreed that the 43-year-old format needed overhauling to make the post season all-star game look like real football. In the recent past, Pro Bowl rules prohibited blitzing and blocking kicks, and allowed the intentional grounding of passes. The rules have an understandable purpose — to guard against career-ending player injuries in an exhibition game. But the result was a game that resembled touch football, which even many players found distasteful. Something had to give.

"The players made it clear that they wanted to continue the Pro Bowl and were committed to making it better than ever," said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

The new rules are designed to achieve an optimal level of safety by eliminating kickoffs and using coin tosses to determine first possession. Play will start on the 25-yard line at the start of each quarter and after scores. The ball will change possession after each quarter, which will please fans by encouraging "two-minute drills" near the end of the quarter. Kick-return specialists will be left out.

But perhaps the biggest change will be in how the players and teams are chosen. The NFL will pattern player selection after the immensely popular fantasy leagues, in which obsessive football fans create their own teams by "drafting" players.

Gone is the traditional AFC- versus-NFC format. Instead, fans, coaches and players will vote on the players without regard to conference. The two leading vote-getters will be become captains and will choose the players for their teams, schoolyard style.

Stats: Will the New Kickoff Rules Really Reduce Injuries?

read ... Pro Bowl changes look good for Hawaii

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