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Tuesday, June 21, 2011
June 21, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:00 PM :: 8572 Views :: Hawaii County News, Agriculture, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party, National News, Development

Developer sues LUC for downzoning affordable homes already built

Abercrombie signs 15 bills into law

Consumer Advocate: Public Hearings Required on HECO Biofuels Rate Increase

MISSION HOUSES MUSEUM JULY FOURTH WEEKEND PA`INA

Hawaii Congressional Delegation How They Voted June 20 

 

Appointees Reject Abercrombie’s Resignation Call 

Gov. Neil Abercrombie's request that all 28 people he didn't appoint to five key boards and commissions step down has thrown the members into an uproar.

Civil Beat reached 15 of the 28 members Monday. Several said they are inclined to resist the governor's wishes, and at least four said they're staying. Many declined to speak on the record, some citing concern about reprisal.

While all 28 members were appointed by former Gov. Linda Lingle, some of the members are Democrats. All the members were unanimously approved by the Democrat-controlled state Senate and received glowing praise from many prominent members of the party.

"I am completely mystified," attorney Kenneth Marcus, who was twice approved to serve on the Aloha Stadium Authority, told Civil Beat. "I am a lifelong Democrat and I supported Abercrombie in the last election. I have no reason to believe that there is anything that he wants with respect to the stadium that I would not support — in part because he has never discussed this with us. We don't know what it is he would like to see us do that we are not doing."

Like many, Marcus has contacted the governor's office to try to talk directly with him about the request.

At least one member, Ron Agor, Kauai's representative on the Board of Land and Natural Resources, said he understands the governor's perspective but that he has no plan to offer his resignation.

"I didn't take the letter in any other manner than the governor was attempting to get his people in as soon as possible," said Agor, who is Republican. "To the contrary, I'm going to respond that I'm staying on."

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Abercrombie doesn’t ask his Cronies to Resign

Those board members not asked to resign include Public Utilities Commission Chairwoman Hermina Morita, the only Abercrombie appointee to these panels so far confirmed by the state Senate.

Others exempt from the resignation request are three members of the Hawai‘i Public Housing Authority — the governor’s representative to the board, Debbie Shimizu; the Department of Human Services representative, Deputy Director Pankaj Bhanot; and the attorneygeneral’s representative, Krislen Chun.

At least one person so far has signaled an intention to resign, said Abercrombie spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz.

Shapiro: Fix system for appointing UH regents

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Aloha Stadium as we know it could soon be saying 'aloha'

And it turns out the Abercrombie administration also wants to replace the stadium authority and perhaps even the 50,000-seat facility.

Last week Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who appears to be running the state by fiat rather than consensus (motto: "I am the governor, I am not your pal"), asked the nine-member authority to resign, making way for his own people….

So if he gets his way, what would Abercrombie do with the stadium?

For an arbitrary "my way or the highway" type of governor such as Abercrombie, the exact mission, purpose and even location for the stadium is a big question.

During the 2010 campaign, Abercrombie repeatedly promised to give the stadium to the University of Hawaii. In his State of the State address, Abercrombie switched that to mean he would put together a panel including UH officials to "consider the future of sports and the future development on Oahu to make a definitive decision on Aloha Stadium and any future stadium we might build."

Back in 2009, in an interview explaining his decision to run for governor, Abercrombie told me he would like to see the existing stadium razed. He said he would allow the more than 100 acres of centrally located property to be developed and require the developers to build a new stadium.

It all amounts to a lot of questions and controversy that may result in an offered seat on the stadium authority becoming political punishment rather than a political plum.

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Mayor will sue over the spending plan OK'd by the City Council

Council Budget Chairman Ernie Martin, poised to become Council chairman, said the city managing director told him of the mayor's intent to veto soon.

"If in fact the mayor does veto those bills, we would look at scheduling a special session to override his veto," said Martin, who expressed confidence in an override due to the bills' 8-1 vote when they initially passed. It takes a two-thirds' vote of the nine-member Council to override a veto.

Carlisle has indicated that he is prepared to sue the Council over the matter. At issue is whether a City Charter amendment, passed in last year's election, intended to give the agency full authority over its finances.

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Higher vehicle fees may not help roads

As Hawaii residents prepare to pay more than double the vehicle weight tax fees and an 80 percent higher state vehicle registration fee, there’s no guarantee the money will go for road maintenance.

Lagging road maintenance was the reason Department of Transportation officials cited in testimony before state legislators earlier this year in asking for the tax increases. Department officials, in written testimony, attributed the lag to cuts to the special maintenance program when the Highways Division’s budget was decreased.

“If the fund was never raided, would we have had to raise the fees?” DOT spokesman Daniel Meisenzahl said. “Probably not….”

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Media Said to Fuel Micronesian Stereotypes

The origins of wariness of local press, Civil Beat was told repeatedly, lie with a July 2007 article published in The Honolulu Advertiser.

The front-page story reported that the number of Micronesians using state homeless shelters "soared by nearly three times" between 2001 and 2006….

The report — "Not-So-Silent Epidemic: The Rise in Shelter Utilization by Micronesians in Hawaii, 2001 to 2006" — was conducted by an "independent homeless services consultant" named Michael Ullman, who used data from the state's Homeless Management Information System.

Ullman, according to the story, said he wrote the report "to alert public officials to the problem and to urge them to re-evaluate the policy that gives homeless persons preference to public housing."

But other sources were contacted, too.

"In my opinion, the decline in Hawaiians and the rise in Micronesians primarily exists at the downtown shelters — IHS and Next Step," the article quoted Kaulana Park, the state's homeless solutions coordinator on the Waianae Coast. "Park said the new report is preliminary, and doesn't include statistics from 2007 — a year in which the state has spent millions to stem the tide of homelessness on the Waianae Coast."

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Another DoE Thief avoids Jail: “Thefts will Continue”

How Hayashi spent the $68,870 she stole from June 2008 to June 2010 will be addressed at her sentencing, Wilkerson said.

Under the terms of her plea deal with the state, Hayashi will be able to avoid time behind bars as long as she keeps up with a schedule to perform community service and pay off a $10,000 fine and $10,695 in court costs and fees.

if she hadn't overdrawn the (account), she probably could have kept this scheme going for a long time," Young said.

Hayashi is the second special administrative services assistant at a public school on Oahu to plead guilty to stealing from the local school account.

Janel Echiberi pleaded guilty last October to stealing more than $13,000 from Lehua Elementary in Pearl City. However, unlike Hayashi, Echiberi has the opportunity to clear her criminal record of the theft and forgery charges because a state judge granted her a five-year deferral of her guilty pleas.

Young said because the local school account is not money the Legislature appropriates, there are fewer checks and balances. He said thefts will continue if the state does not impose stricter oversight.

REALITY: Hawaii DoE: Cost of waste, fraud, and corruption between $191M and $431M per year

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BoE: More Math and Science, Less Social Studies

Every public high school student in Hawaii would have to pass geometry and complete two lab sciences under more rigorous graduation requirements proposed as the state Department of Education continues to fine-tune its diploma policy.

But the department is no longer pushing for all students to take Algebra 2 and wants to cut to three from four the number of social studies credits needed for graduation.

Under the proposal before a Board of Education committee today, high school students, beginning with the class of 2018, would have to pass at least three math courses — including Algebra 1 and geometry or an equivalent course — and two lab science classes. They would also have to earn four English credits, including one in expository writing.

The requirements are tougher than those for the current standard diploma, but less than what is needed to secure the optional "recognition" diploma….

The new proposal drew concern from social studies educators, who were rallying support against the change on a Facebook page and planning to attend the board meeting today.

Decreasing the number of required social studies credits "does not seem to be a forward-thinking move," said Jeff Moniz, director of the secondary program at the University of Hawaii at Manoa's Institute for Teacher Education and chairman of the Teacher Education Committee for Social Studies at UH-Manoa. "This proposal disturbs me."

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New Council Chair Ernie Martin gave away $1.2M to Nonprofit at Center of HUD Probe

20 paragraphs in … Last last year, outgoing Community Services Director Ernie Martin sent a memo to the city's budget director canceling $1.2 million in city loans to ORI. Now Martin is a member of the Honolulu City Council and next month he's expected to become its chairman.

An administrator in the Community Services Department explained that the loans were from the 1990s, and the city was moving to convert a number of old loans into grants for several nonprofits on Oahu. Martin says he inherited the move to forgive ORI's loans from Debbie Morikawa, who served as director of Community Services before him.

"It was under Debbie's (direction) but it was not only Debbie who initiated that," Martin told Civil Beat on Monday. "It was under the request of ORI, they made a request if the city would consider forgiving that loan — or, it's not really a loan forgiveness but actually converting the loan to a grant — and with that conversion, they're still obligated to meet certain CDBG conditions."

But HUD found that ORI is not actually meeting those CDBG conditions. Martin acknowledges his former department may not have monitored ORI as closely as it should have.

"They probably did not do the more deeper level of monitoring that HUD did, with regards to viewing participant files, checking programs and services," Martin said. "Normally it's a two-step process: The initial monitoring that's done and then what you call post-development monitoring, which is monitoring that's done after the project has completed construction, but still has CDBG obligations. I'm not sure if the city had done that level of monitoring yet. I guess based on these findings, they will be doing it, probably more strictly and a higher priority for them."

He said he knows Cheung "very well," and called her "very passionate" and "very feisty."

"ORI, it's been driven by Susanna because of her dynamic personality and her passion for that population," Martin said. "I think that's true for almost all nonprofits, it always starts with that one person who has the vision, the passion and the commitment. They never do it for their own personal gain."

Not only is ORI in Martin's City Council district, Cheung was also one of his political supporters. Cheung gave $1,000 to Martin's campaign for City Council in December 2009 and another $200 in the weeks leading up to the November 2010 election.

Cheung is active in politics. In addition to supporting Martin's campaign for council, she gave tens of thousands of dollars to local campaigns in the past decade.

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Tom Berg proposal to allow Commercial Vendors in parks on Agenda Today

City Council member Tom Berg is introducing a resolution to allow commercial activity in some parks.

Specifically, the District 1 council member wants to allow food and other goods available for purchase in certain parks along the Waianae Coast.

"Nanakuli Neighborhood Board has requested that a pilot program be established to allow vendors to sell handcrafted, homemade, and food items at city parks in the area, such as Tracks Beach Park and Kahe Point Beach Park," Berg wrote.

He says it would be part of a three-year pilot program to determine whether the commercial activity should be allowed to continue. The reso will be up for discussion in a Parks and Human Services Committee meeting at City Hall today.

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Unnamed City Official faces charges for “Malicious” and “false” Ethics Complaint

If you're going to file an ethics complaint from your official city email account, you'd better not be making it up.

City Ethics Commission Executive Director Chuck Totto told the City Council this morning that proposed changes to the city's ethics code won't lead to a spike in work for the commission because there are already safeguards in place to prevent malicious or unfounded complaints from seeing the light of day. As an example, he pointed to the case of a city official who used their office and email to file a false complaint — and is now facing charges for doing so….

"We determined it in our report to the commission, but the commission has to either accept or reject our report. That's the step we're at right now," he said. "Unfortunately, I can't tell you the details of it, but the proof is very straightforward."

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'Furlough Fridays' expire

Friday marked the end of an era for Hawaii County, only no one was around to notice.

That was the last time more than 1,600 employees and the public they service experienced a “Furlough Friday,” the twice monthly unpaid days implemented last July to save money.

“Furloughs will end on June 30 for all county employees,” Mayor Billy Kenoi wrote in his March 4 budget request to the County Council.

Affected workers endured a 9.23 percent pay cut that saved the cash-strapped local government an estimated $7 million.

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Hawaii County Budget Fight Continues

ALEC rates Hawaii worst for Economic Performance

ALEC, the nation’s largest, non-partisan, individual membership association of state legislators, will release its fourth edition of its state-by-state economic rankings Wednesday. The report highlights the 15 economic factors contributing to poor state economic performance and provides a free market roadmap for state legislators looking to bring about real economic recovery in their states.

And the winner is…This year’s report identifies Utah as the strongest economic state in the Nation—the fourth year in a row. Numbers 2 through 5 included: South Dakota, Virginia, Wyoming and Idaho.

The 5 worst states (#46-#50) include: Hawaii (46), California, Maine, Vermont and New York. Hawaii was downgraded from the 3rd edition of the book.

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Former Superferry ships for sale

The federal Maritime Administration has put up for public sale the two high-speed vessels formerly owned by the bankrupt Hawaii Superferry LLC.

The 321-foot Alakai and 338-foot Huakai are being sold "as is" but free and clear of all liens.

The Maritime Administration bought both vessels for $25 million each and was owed more than $135.7 million.  (That is the price of allowing anti-Superferry protesters to win.)

Auction Rules: http://frwebgate3.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/TEXTgate.cgi?WAISdocID=N2BQil/0/1/0&WAISaction=retrieve

REALITY: Hanabusa could have saved Superferry, did nothing

More Reality: Why Hawaii Lost the Superferry

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Governor Signs Tougher Sex And Labor Trafficking Bills

House bill 240 makes many sex trafficking offenses class A felonies, punishable by 20-year prison sentences.

Lesser related offenses also have been increased to class B felonies which carry 10-year terms of imprisonment.

The new law also allows the Attorney General to expend witness security and protection funds for the safekeeping of prosecution witnesses in sex trafficking cases.

The law previously stressed use of such funds in organized crime and racketeering related investigations.

The labor trafficking bill, House Bill 141, was passed and enacted as a major criminal case is pending in federal court here against local farm owners accused of illegally importing and exploiting hundreds of agricultural laborers from Thailand.

Like the sex-trafficking measure, the labor bill elevates many trafficking activities to class A and B felonies.

CB: Hawaii's First Human Trafficking Law

NEWS RELEASE:  Abercrombie signs 15 bills into law

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2 congressmen call for Honolulu TSA probe

It was the single largest personnel action for misconduct in the agency's 10-year history.

The proposed firings "highlight the conflict that exists when the TSA acts as both the operator and regulator of the aviation screening programs," the letter to Homeland Security Acting Inspector General Charles K. Edwards said.

The letter demanded a number of items, including an analysis of the failure of TSA's oversight and supervision of screening in Honolulu; past evaluations of the airport's security officers and all performance disciplinary actions; and the titles, positions and current wage level of those involved.

Mica chairs the Transportation and Infrastructure committee and Chaffetz chairs the National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations subcommittee. Both have been critical of the TSA.

"It is essential that we have a full investigation of this massive TSA lapse and ensure the nation has the most effective security system possible," Mica said in a statement. "TSA can function more effectively as a security agency if it gets out of the business of managing a bloated bureaucracy of nearly 63,000."

Mica has long urged airports to use private, contracted screeners that are supervised by the TSA, said his spokesman Justin Harclerode.

"That's a better security model than when TSA performs all roles in the security structure," he said. Mica "thinks they have a much more appropriate role as regulator, standard-setter and auditor." read more

Child Abuse: Gay Atheists continue effort to use anti-bullying programs to push Gay Agenda in Schools

(Gay atheist) Community leaders are gathering to discuss topics including cyberbullying, bullying against gay youths and strategies to prevent bullying.

Mental Health America of Hawaii planned the session for Wednesday at Central Union Church in Honolulu

What this is about:  The transsexual agenda for Hawaii schools

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High court "parental discipline" ruling not a license to abuse

In a 3-2 ruling, the majority said, "An instruction to the jury on the parental discipline defense must be given… no matter how weak, inconclusive, or unsatisfactory that evidence may be."

"It almost gives parents the right like, oh, that is OK, so I can push it a little but further when I discipline my child," said Billie Leuder, a board member of Prevent Child Abuse Hawaii. "That's what we're trying to stay away from."

The court writes: "We emphasize that our holding in no way condones the use of illegal force against minors."

But the fact that there's any legal force allowed against children takes many by surprise Hawaii law allows parents or guardians to conduct corporal punishment if there's regard for the age and size of the minor; if it's reasonably related to prevention or punishment of misconduct; and if it's not intended to cause substantial pain.

The Supreme Court ruling referred to a past case that called reasonable corporal punishment "part and parcel of the real world of parenting" and said "what parent among us can say he or she has not been angered to some degree from a child's defiant, impudent or insolent conduct, sufficient to call for spontaneous, stern, and meaningful discipline?"

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Kalapa: Kids budget better than Legislators

No doubt there are other factors to weigh in on that decision to spend one’s allowance, or in the case of government, that expenditure of taxpayer dollars. Public policymakers, like that growing child, need to ask just how much is this going to cost and do we have the resources to make that purchase? Is this the best alternative at the best price for what I am expecting to acquire? More importantly, is there a good value in return for what is being asked? As we all have learned, sometimes the "best" or lowest price is not the best value for the dollar spent. Finally, will that purchase actually improve the situation for the child or the community?

These are difficult, but important, lessons for a child to learn if that child is expected to grow into a financially responsible adult. Then again, when one looks at government, both in Hawaii and across the nation, one has to wonder whether or not our political leaders ever learned these basic financial lessons of life.

If the state and the nation are to survive this current economic crisis, those leaders perhaps should revisit many of these basic financial principles. Without basic and sound financial management practices, our governments may find themselves in a financial disaster that will be even more challenging than what we have experienced in the past few years.

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First Large-Scale Oahu Biofuel Crops Planted

Pacific Biodiesel, which has succeeding in recycling used cooking oil into vehicle fuel on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island, is managing the Hawaii Military Biofuels Crop Demonstration Project. Funded by a $2.4 million military grant, the goal is to determine whether fast-growing, oil-producing plants like safflower, sunflower and camelina can produce enough biodiesel fuel to significantly reduce the military's dependence on petroleum.

The crops should produce their first yields in a little more than three months.

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Something fishy in reporting the fishery management council

A reader posed this question via email:

Okay, an article in yesterday’s Star-Advertiser reports a 20% increase in the quota for bottom fish.

All we learn is the pro-fishing side of the debate. Completely missing is the conservationist side.

I have to say the article was actually an improvement over an earlier news brief, apparently based solely on a press release from the fishery council, which described the council’s action as reducing the quota rather than increasing it.

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Republicans question Foodland's departure from Koko Marina

Two Republican state lawmakers will host a town hall meeting to discuss the closure of the Foodland grocery story at the Koko Marina Shopping Center.

Sen. Sam Slom (R, Diamond Head-Hawaii Kai) and Rep. Gene Ward (R, Hawaii Kai-Kalama Valley) set up the meeting at Kaiser High School Tuesday at 7 p.m….

Jenai Wall, Foodland chairman and CEO, said in a statement last week: "As a local company that truly cares about the communities it serves, we are devastated to have to leave this community after 47 years. Our customers are like family to us, and we will truly miss serving them at this store."

Ward said, "What we hope to gain by this meeting is a better understanding of what took place and why, and what, if anything, can be done to prevent Foodland's departure."

Ward said, members of the Sullivan family, who own Foodland, and property manager Sofos Realty have been invited to speak at the meeting.

SA:  Foodland closing is 'a done deal'

HR: Update: Residents Fight Foodland Closure – Meeting Set Tuesday at Kaiser High School

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Allegiant acquires first two 757s for Hawaii Routes

The airline is acquiring six 757s with plans to initiate nonstop service between the West Coast and Hawaii sometime next year.

A spokeswoman for Allegiant said today that the airline would use the planes domestically while the company pursues extended twin-engine operations certification from the Federal Aviation Administration, which is required for Hawaii routes.

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Support Small Business Through Oahu Bill 36

Earlier this year, the city eliminated the incentive program as a short-term move to help balance the budget. However, this move will not lead to more revenues from the large recyclers, and it could have very negative consequences for a number of Honolulu’s local businesses.

With no tipping fee discount in place, recyclers will either pass the costs on to those who deliver metal to them or refuse to take non-recyclable material altogether, reducing the amount of shredder residue they send to the landfill. Either way, if the recycling incentive program is not restored, local small businesses will suffer the biggest hit, and recycling could decrease to pre-1991 levels. Recycling is a volatile business, which is why the city’s recycling incentive program is good policy.

A solution is resting on the Mayor’s desk. The City Council recently passed Bill 36, which would revive the program at gradually reduced levels long enough for the large recyclers to make adjustments to their operations and minimize impacts to our local small businesses. This approach is good public policy, and it is now up to Mayor Carlisle to support it and the small businesses that rely on a viable recycling market to provide for their families.

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Date set for school worker's enticement trial

Before his arrest, Lopez worked one hour, two days a week as a part-time school lunch supervisor at Benjamin Parker Elementary School, and also worked as a Bishop Museum security guard.

It is the second Hawaii case in which the victim was a child — not an undercover agent — according to the state Attorney General's Office.

Lopez allegedly contacted a 13-year-old girl using a cellphone text message and arranged to meet her for sex.

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Hawaii electricians union re-elects HART Member as business manager, financial secretary

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 1186 announced Monday Damien Kim was re-elected to a new three-year term.

He is a member of the Honolulu Authority on Rapid Transportation and is vice president of the Hawaii Building & Construction Trades Council.

IBEW Local 1186 companies are responsible for more than 75 percent of all electrical work in Hawaii.

PBN: Akamu, Kim re-elected to leadership of IBEW Local 1186

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Guam Governor demands US pay reparations for Japanese Atrocities

Japan's foray into imperialism during World War II was especially brutal for Guam, when Chamorros suffered atrocities from the Japanese Imperial Army. Our women were raped. Our men were beheaded. Chamorro families were marched into caves and exterminated like vermin.

After three years of pain and suffering, America finally stormed the beaches of our island on July 1944 to take back the island. The occasion is known as Liberation Day, but while we were liberated from slavery and war, the Chamorros were still suppressed under colonialism….

Thousands of Japanese-Americans underwent forced internment, the motivations racist and ignorant. But what of our greatest generation on Guam? The Chamorros of World War II endured slavery, occupation, murder, and genocide. Yet, the U.S. Government is silent in its obligations to war reparations.  (Read that again slowly) Our island anxiously awaits the day where our people can receive the same amount of respect, as fellow Americans who endured unimaginable evil during that time. The silence from the administering power on this issue reinforces the point that Guam can no longer remain a colony in perpetuity.

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AMA finds inaccurate claims payments on the rise

The American Medical Association’s (AMA) fourth annual National Health Insurer Report Card has found that inaccurate claims payments have increased overall since last year among leading commercial health insurers. According to the findings, the average claims-processing error rate among commercial health insurers is 19.3 percent, representing a 2 percent increase compared with last year. The overall increase in inaccuracy equates to an extra $3.6 million in erroneous claims payments, and an estimated $1.5 billion in unnecessary health system administrative costs. According to the AMA, eliminating health insurer claim payment errors would save an estimated $17 billion annually.

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