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Sunday, December 7, 2014
December 7, 2014 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:54 PM :: 3912 Views

Pearl Harbor, Civil Rights, and Hawaii Statehood

Hawai’i State Hospital Employees Game Overtime System

HECO Sends Six New Solar Projects for PUC Approval

Ethics Commission Fines Non-Profit for Illegal Lobbying

End Run Around Nexus

Pearl Harbor Day:

96% Obamacare Rate Hike Coming to Hawaii

SA: Hawaii residents are now knee deep in the Affordable Care Act's second open enrollment period, which began on Nov. 15.

Many are finding what appears to be a pleasant surprise: over 70 percent of plans will have lower premiums than 2014....

In Hawaii, as elsewhere, average health care premiums are likely to modestly increase (and possibly decrease) both in 2015 and 2016. The real premium spikes won't occur until January 2017 — conveniently after the next presidential election....

2017 will be the real test. The law contains two programs that will expire at the end of that year: "risk corridors" and "re-insurance." Both programs conceal health insurance's true costs — costs that truly have skyrocketed, thanks to the ACA's mandates and regulations.

Risk corridors and re-insurance operate in similar fashions: They subsidize insurance companies with taxpayer money. Risk corridors give insurance companies money if their customers spend more on health care than the insurer estimated; reinsurance allows insurance companies to bill the federal government for particularly expensive patients.

Both programs ultimately allow insurance companies to list artificially low premiums for their health care plans.

The Affordable Care Act's authors created these two programs for a specific reason: They would ease the transition from the pre- to the post-ACA health care system.

In the post-ACA world, health care is more expensive — a fact borne out by 2014's average 41 percent spike in base premiums. Reinsurance and risk corridors have largely hidden these price increases from consumers for the past year; they will continue to do so until Jan. 1, 2017.

Premiums will likely skyrocket come that date. The Medical Industry Leadership Institute's study estimates that once the two subsidies expire, premiums for a cheap bronze plan in Hawaii could increase by a staggering 96 percent for individuals and by 46 percent for families....

Related: Soft Cop: Insurance Div Approves 8.4% HMSA Rate Hike

read ... Health care premiums on track to skyrocket

Ige Not Laying Down Policy Specifics

Shapiro: He's taken some criticism for not laying down specific policy proposals, but that can wait until next month when he delivers his first budget to the Legislature and makes his State of the State speech.

For now, the important thing is to change the tone of the public conversation from the shouting, threatening, name-calling and fear-mongering that has degraded our policy disagreements to something more respectful, inclusive and productive....

If his administration makes meaningful progress in reversing the public debt, job losses, crumbling infrastructure, struggling schools and depleted environment we're leaving future generations, it'll be a powerful accomplishment.

Ige described political hot buttons such as same-sex marriage and GMOs as "passing issues" that are important, but don't define us as a people.

He condemned "outside money that seeks to divide us (with) hurtful and personal attacks that have nothing to do with the issues themselves; emotional appeals that feed on prejudices and stereotypes. They all have nothing to do with who we are."....

He lamented Hawaii's dismal voter turnout in unusually strong terms for a longtime legislator who has benefited from the combination of poor turnout and bountiful special-interest money that helps incumbents keep their jobs....

How serious he is on this one depends on his definitions; elected officials tend to view the other guy's supporters as special interests and their own supporters as "stakeholders."...

read ... Ige has potential to bring peace back to isle politics

PUC Appointment Puts HECO Merger in Ige's Lap

Borreca: The announced purchase of Hawaiian Electric Industries by Florida-based Next-Era Energy sets up the first big challenge for Gov. David Ige and will cause a major restructuring of Hawaii's sometimes exotic world of alternative energy production.

First, the more than $4 billion deal has to be approved by federal and state regulators, including the state Public Utilities Commission.

Ige will have a hand in that because the chairmanship of the PUC is up in the air. Hermina Morita was not reappointed by former Gov. Neil Abercrombie as chairwoman, but no one has been named to take her place. Presumably Ige can now act and install, with state Senate confirmation, either Morita or someone new.

Second, this deal is too bright and shiny to not lure all 76 members of the Legislature, who will want to bat around energy policy during the upcoming 2015 session.

And finally, there is the public, which is mostly fed up with Hawaiian Electric and is more than willing to embrace a new player who is promising cheaper power....

read ... Bright and Shiny

NextEra Energy in Hawai`i: LNG, interisland cables and smart grids

IM: The sequence of events on Wednesday included a webcast and conference call with analysts and investors at 1 p.m., followed by a meeting with the Public Utilities Commission and then a press conference at 2:30.

The investor dialogue included discussions on the HECO Companies Power Supply Improvement Plans (PSIPs), Smart Grids, Interisland Cables, Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), wind, solar and energy storage. There was also a question regarding the sale price of $4.3 billion which has two components: $1.7 billion in debt and $2.6 billion is the net sale.

Jim Robo (Nextera CEO) and Connie Lau (HEI CEO) fielded questions....

Stephen Byrd: “NextEra has quite a bit of wind expertise and also wind presence in Hawaii. And I followed over time, I guess, they're - NextEra's looked at options involving, you know, bringing in undersea cable and bringing, you know, wind power between islands. Will the wind element of your business be applied to sort of very tangibly in Hawaii, in terms of how you think about supplying, you know, the future? Will that transmission line, you know, come into play here?”

Jim Robo: “Hawaiian Electric just filed some studies around whether or not that's cost effective. I think we're going to be taking a view that what we want to do is we want to be doing what's right for the - what's right for the state, what's right for the stakeholders, and what's right for customers, and what drives the lowest customer bill.

And so, you know, we are not wedded to any particular solution, whether it be wind or a cable or solar or LNG or modernizing plants. We're wedded to trying to put together what is the most effective solution that's going to - you know, that's going to bring lower emissions and clean energy and lower customer bills to the state. I think that's what the - that's what the focus is going to be, and I think that's one of the reasons why we're so excited about the opportunity that the combination brings.”

MN: NextEra has invested $20 billion in clean energy in North America

read ... NextEra Energy in Hawai`i: LNG, interisland cables and smart grids

Maui Council Chair: Legislature Needs to Provide 'Legal Flexibility' to Maui Memorial

MN: CEO Wesley Lo and his team at Maui Memorial have worked hard to make Maui County's main hospital function with increased efficiency, but the demand for health care services is outpacing hospital operating budgets. Decreases in state subsidies and health-insurance reimbursements threaten the reliability of our medical facilities and job security for more than 1,500 employees.

That's why I urged the Health Committee at a meeting in Kahului last month to listen to Maui Memorial's management and medical professionals. The state Legislature needs to provide legal flexibility and financial resources necessary to keep the hospital strong.

Without reliable health care facilities in Maui County, residents must deal with the burden of flying elsewhere to receive proper care.

A new hospital on Maui could be part of the solution, especially in the Lahaina region, which is projected to experience major growth in the coming decades.

read ... Legal Flexibility

Bungling Hawaii VA Behind Denial of Benefits to Navy Cross Recipient 

LVRJ: So Thursday, after more than two years of agonizing and writing rant letters he never mailed, Lowery asked U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, to help him unravel the mystery about his case.

On Friday, Heller’s spokesman, Neal Patel, acknowledged the process has begun.

Also on Friday, a spokesman for the VA Reno benefits office said its staff intends to review Lowery’s case.

The spokesman, Nathanial Miller, said a preliminary look at Lowery’s file indicates Bittler, the veterans service center manager, concluded Lowery’s wounds weren’t service connected merely because Lowery was in Las Vegas when an appointment had been arranged for April 5, 2011, for a VA physical in Honolulu where Lowery also has a residence.

VA officials in Hawaii had mistakenly assumed he was already there and scheduled a physical for him. Instead, he was still in Las Vegas. So, when they called about the appointment, he requested they cancel it so he wouldn’t be a “no-show” and only schedule it after he arrived.

“They agreed,” Lowery said. “I arrived and called the hospital for the appointment only to discover the VA in Reno had already closed the case.”

read ... VA Hawaii

Goebbels' Mistress Spied for Japan in Honolulu

CDN: ...It is not well known that a family of German spies helped set up the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor and made it much simpler and much more deadly. A German Nazi named Bernard Julius Otto Kuhn (Kuehn) moved his wife and two children to Hawaii in August of 1935 with the mission to spy upon the Americans at their military installation in Pearl Harbor.

The family had been contracted as agents of the Japanese government with the assistance of the Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels. The arrangement was promoted and negotiated by Goebbels as a by product of his relationship with Kuhn’s attractive 17 year old daughter, Susie Ruth. At the tender age of 17, Susie Ruth had been Goebbels’ mistress in Berlin. When he learned that the Japanese government sought Caucasian spies from Germany to work in Hawaii, Goebbels recommended Susie Ruth and her family....

No suspicion was aroused when Friedel travelled to Japan twice during this period leading up to the attack. She managed to successfully bring back $16,000 when she returned from her second visit and deposited it into their bank account....

Although the Japanese later tried to dismiss the information as ineffectual, the intelligence was invaluable. Actually, five days before the attack, the Kuhn’s transmitted to the Japanese information describing every American ship in Honolulu. This system of espionage went undetected right up to the day of the insidious attack. Military intelligence finally noticed the blinking lights from the Kuhn cottage overlooking the harbor and put two and two together and ultimately arrested the family....

read ... Spies in Honolulu

'Hope nobody gets Hurt': 'Spooky' King St Project, 'Inspired by Portlandia'

KHON: ...while bicyclists were celebrating, drivers were still confused about the street parking next to the lane, away from the curb. A few drivers, unfamiliar with the new traffic pattern, ended up stuck behind parked cars, thinking it was still a through lane for driving....

“I hope nobody gets hurt,” said driver Kimi Torres of Makiki. “It’s just spooky. Are (cyclists) supposed to walk their bike across, or can they ride it?”

The two-mile track is the first of a planned grid of protected bike lanes through urban Honolulu, looking at Portland, Oregon’s city bike system as inspiration.

read ... Inspired by Portlandia

Review of Hawaii Co tax equity issues needed

WHT: I want to believe that most agricultural exemptions being held by Hawaii’s long-term farm and ranch producers are legitimate. Maybe the old axiom is true that the real definition of waste in government is programs with constituencies that cannot politically defend themselves (farmers and ranchers).

Wouldn’t a more comprehensive review of all property tax equity issues be more fair and effective than simply targeting a small group of taxpayers from an isolated property tax group — most of whom likely contribute significantly to Hawaii’s need for self-sufficiency?

read ... Review

Agribusiness Development for former Wahiawa Dole Lands

SA: ...an effort to reinvigorate farming -- and Wahiawa itself -- appears to be taking root.

The initiative is a multipronged one by the state. It includes making agricultural fields and farm-related industrial and retail sites around Wahiawa available for long-term lease, developing affordable housing for farmworkers and preparing area school kids for jobs and careers in agriculture.

Known as The Whitmore Project, the plan is being implemented by the state Agribusiness Development Corp., or ADC, after pieces were largely aligned by Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz after years of sometimes frustrating work in the Legislature....

read ... Agribusiness

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