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Sunday, November 11, 2012
November 11, 2012 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:50 PM :: 8746 Views

Hawaii Veterans Day Events 2012

Abercrombie Admin: HSTA Position 'Fundamentally Flawed'

HSTA Launches 'Work to Rule' Protest

Kauai Chief: Valenciano's Decision Likely to be Appealed and Overturned

General Excise Tax Needs a Few Tweaks

Akaku, Olelo to Broadcast PLDC Hearing Live

Oxycontin Contributions: Josh Green Helps Pill Mills Loot Honolulu County Funds

SA: A state senator wrote a letter on his official legislative stationery in August urging the city to settle a six-figure billing dispute with a private company, and eight days later the company donated $2,000 to the senator's campaign, according to city and campaign spending records.

The $2,000 donation brought Automated HealthCare Solutions' cumulative contributions to Sen. Josh Green to $4,000, the maximum allowed during an election cycle for a senatorial candidate, the records show. Green, a Hawaii County physician and chairman of the Senate's Health Committee, easily won re-election last week.

Only one other lawmaker (Clayton Hee, but they don't mention him until the last paragraph) in the 76-member Legislature received any campaign contributions from Automated HealthCare during the just-concluded election cycle, the records show….

The city of Honolulu is disputing the claims, citing inflated prices and other issues….

Automated HealthCare pays doctors up front for their medication claims and bills the insurance carriers or government agencies, making money on those collections. The company has been the subject of controversy and media reports nationally because of the money it contributes to state lawmakers….

Douglas Chin, the city's managing director, told Green in an Oct. 29 letter that the city considers the Automated HealthCare matter an internal billing dispute and urged the senator to use his position to investigate what Chin characterized as abuse in the dispensing of prescription medications by physicians.

That abuse, Chin wrote, has caused exponential increases in prescription drug costs for the city and state. He cited multiple examples, including one in which Automated HealthCare billed the city $832.37 for a muscle relaxant (which one? Valium? Soma?) that cost the physician $14.40 and that a local pharmacy sells for $57.65 — about 14 times less than what Automated HealthCare charged.

"How can the government justify this expense to taxpayers?" Chin wrote in explaining one of the main reasons the city is disputing the company's billings….

Chin told Green that some dispensing physicians now appear to prescribe compound drugs that are of dubious therapeutic value.

He cited the case of a physician who prescribed what was essentially diluted Ben Gay to a city claimant who didn't want the drug and didn't use it, even though the physician insisted that the patient after each visit take a few tubes anyway, according to Chin. The city was billed $299 per tube, he said. The patient stacked the tubes in his garage, and the collective tab for the diluted compound topped $8,600, Chin added….

But the problem of inflated prices seems to be growing, according to some insurers, who unsuccessfully sought to get a bill passed at the Legislature this year to cap prices of such drugs.

The bill, which passed the House, died in a Senate committee headed by Sen. Clayton Hee, the only other legislator to get campaign contributions from Automated HealthCare, according to campaign spending records….

Chin said doctors dispense drugs and then "wash their hands" by passing the claims to companies like AHCS. The companies use lobbying and campaign contributions as a strategy to influence receptive politicians, according to Chin.

In addition to the August donation, Green's campaign received $1,000 from Automated HealthCare in October 2011 and $1,000 this past June, according to his campaign spending records.

Resources for Concerned Legislators, Councilmembers:

read … An Article the Star-Adv held until After Election Day

Dividing the Loot: Gabbard, Solar Scammers, State hold Secret Meetings

SA: State Sen. Mike Gabbard is hoping informal discussions he is coordinating outside the glare of the legislative spotlight will lay the groundwork for passage of a bill reforming Hawaii's renewable-energy tax credit when lawmakers return to work next year.

The chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and the Environment has pulled together a range of stakeholders for a series of meetings, including representatives from the solar and wind energy industries, state agencies, utilities and the Legislature.

Gabbard said he wants to avoid the situation that occurred last session when House and Senate members working to craft a compromise renewable-energy bill simply ran out of time in the turmoil of the closing days of the legislative session.

"The whole idea of this is to get folks together before the session starts up and things get crazy," Gabbard said.

The participants have met twice so far, and have a third meeting planned next week. "It's really been quite productive. I don't expect to achieve a unanimous consensus, but we want to have something everybody can live with," Gabbard said.

PBN: Hawaii Top 40 list tracks pace of renewable-energy projects

read … Falling out amongst thieves

HSTA petition 'flawed,' state says

SA: The state has called a Hawaii Supreme Court petition filed by the teachers union that seeks relief from the terms of an imposed contract "fundamentally flawed."

In a filing with the court Thursday, the state also said the Hawaii Labor Relations Board has "exclusive jurisdiction over prohibited practice complaints."

The labor board also argued, in a separate filing, that granting the teachers' petition would be inappropriate.

The filings were in response to an October court ruling that directed the state to respond to the union's request that teachers be restored to the contract terms they were under before a "last, best and final" offer was imposed in July 2011.

Related: Abercrombie Admin: HSTA Position 'Fundamentally Flawed'

read … Flawed 

Abandoned Callers on HGEA, State DoH Horrendous Suicide Line Train Wreck

In September, more than 1,200 calls to the state's only suicide and mental health crisis hotline were "abandoned" after the caller stayed on the phone through an average of 16 rings, listened to a recorded announcement, and was then, in many cases, asked to leave a message.

Hundreds more were disconnected before the caller ever got to the recorded announcement.

And for those who did leave voice mails, which the state doesn't tally, it took as long as half an hour for someone to call them back.

"It's horrendous," said Bud Bowles, executive director of United Self-Help, a Hawaii nonprofit that provides support groups and classes for those with mental illness. "This line we're talking about is the 911 for mental health."…

The call center personnel work staggered shifts: At least five are on the first shift, from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m., three are on in the evening, from 2 p.m. to midnight, and at least two are on the overnight shift.

The state spends about $788,000 a year on the access hotline, $36,000 of which goes to operating expenses.

The rest covers personnel, including overtime costs and overnight differentials.

Sheehan said because of staffing issues, overtime at the crisis center has been a continual expense.

In September, counselors at the hotline accrued 241.5 overtime hours (which averages out to 18.5 hours per hotline staff member). In 2011, the total number of overtime hours in one month went as high as 420; in 2010, the high was 434 hours.

The hotline has also struggled to boost its performance in recent years. As far back as 2009, pro­viders were raising concerns about the service. Last year, it was labeled a "train wreck" by a group of advocates who convened to make recommendations on a host of adult mental health programs.

read … Profitable Non-profits grabbing for HGEA work

Non-Profit Sector Outlines Legislative Agenda

» Establish a task force to streamline contracting processes and lower costs.

In Hawaii, this is already a work in progress. Two years ago, the Government Contracting Task Force was created by a Senate concurrent resolution. Representatives from HANO, the Legis- lature and state agencies will recommend to the 2013 Legislature ways to streamline business and reporting processes, reduce burdens on nonprofit contractors and ensure timely contract payments.

» Create a nonprofit liaison in government.

Across the country, few governments tap the expertise and creativity of nonprofits, despite the fact that they employ more than 10 percent of the workforce — 13.7 million workers earning $587.6 billion, which is 9.2 percent of all wages and salaries paid in the U.S. in 2010, according to the Urban Institute.

» Extend state small-business programs to small, community-based nonprofits.

Like the best small businesses, nonprofit organizations are dedicated to their communities, are innovative and effective, and provide jobs. According to the IRS, the majority of charitable nonprofits are small: 89.5 percent have annual revenues of less than $1 million. These smaller nonprofits have limited access to credit, pay higher health insurance premiums and need technical assistance — just like small businesses. Government should ensure that all job creators — nonprofit and for-profit alike — can participate in programs to promote economic development, build capacity and find community solutions.

read … Profitable Non-Profits

State Violated Law By Urging "Yes" Vote On Ballot Measure

HR: “We have advised the DLNR that while it is appropriate to expend moneys…to educate the public about dam safety, it is not appropriate to advocate that the public should vote “Yes” on Constitutional Amendment No.1,” Suzuki wrote in a letter yesterday.

The Hawaii Supreme Court established that precedent five years ago in a case that challenged a similar ballot advocacy effort by Honolulu Prosecutor Peter Carlisle during the 2004 general election.

That ruling drew a distinction between providing educational information about a ballot issue and “blatant advocacy” for or against it.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which won the 2007 Supreme Court case involving Carlisle’s advocacy efforts, has asked DLNR for public records about its advocacy efforts on behalf of this year’s constitutional amendment.

The proposed amendment would have allowed owners of dams and reservoirs to pay for repairs with the proceeds of special purpose revenue bonds.

The bonds would have been issued though the state, but the owners would have been liable for repaying them.

No Irony Here: Devise ways to rein in Super PACs (When the State buys campaign ads, slap on the wrist. When private corporations buy ads, we must amend he constitution.)

read … DLNR

Hawaii Co Prosecutor’s Office to hire six victims’ advocates

WHT: Two counselors, two counseling assistants and two legal clerks will be added through a $303,177 grant from the state Justice Reinvestment Initiative. One of each position will be placed in the Hilo and Kona offices, respectively. First Deputy Prosecutor Dale Yamada Ross said the grant will run through fiscal year 2015.

Ross said the new hires will allow the Prosecutor’s Office’s Victims Assistance Unit to assist property crime victims….

Ross said that currently in Hilo, there are seven victim counselors including the supervisor, no counseling assistant and 10 clerks, while in Kona there’s a supervisor, three victim counselors, no counseling assistant and 10 clerks, She added that the clerk count is the clerical unit for the entire department, not just the Victims Assistance Unit….

The grant is part of Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s effort to save money by reducing mainland prisoner contracts and reinvesting the savings to fill key unfilled positions.

read … HGEA Jobs

Diving Industry Renews Attack on Aquarium Collectors

HTH: The Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement could prove only four citations to aquarium collectors over the past 13 years, according to records provided by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, Stephens Media requested in May from DLNR all records of enforcement, citations and penalties received by aquarium collectors in the West Hawaii Regional Fishery Management Area since the Fish Replenishment Areas took effect in 1999. Five months later, DOCARE provided just four redacted citations….

Hajek said the enforcement concerns are “just another in a long line of attempts of the anti-aquarium forces to create a situation where one does not exist.” He added, “This has never been a resource issue; it has always been a user conflict.”

As the industry matures, Dart said changes are needed, which is why he’s supporting the state’s proposed West Hawaii rules package. The proposal, to be discussed during a Dec. 5 public hearing at the Kealakehe High School cafeteria, includes: a list of 40 fish species permitted for aquarium take; establishment of a West Hawaii aquarium permit and requiring notification to the DAR Kona office if possessing aquarium collecting gear or aquarium fish after or before sunrise.

“We need the West Hawaii rules package passed not just for more aquarium regulations, but for a foundation to manage all forms of fishing. Rules governing the reef should be based on sound science,” Dart said. 

“The Big Island Association of Aquarium Fisherman has no knowledge of any reports of violations not being investigated by DOCARE officers, and yet they claim there is an enforcement problem,” said Bob Hajek, the association’s president. “Aquarium fishing has been, and continues to be, the most regulated fishery in the state and we are boarded and inspected by DOCARE regularly. The reason there are so few regulation violations on record is not because DOCARE is not doing its job; it’s because we are continually found in compliance with the laws and regulations of our fishery.”

The Legislature created the West Hawaii Regional Fisheries Management Area largely in response to a longstanding and widespread conflict surrounding aquarium collecting. Currently, 35.2 percent of the coastline is set aside as FRAs, where aquarium collecting is prohibited. DLNR has received criticism during talks about reining in the aquarium trade and fish collecting bans in recent years. A lawsuit was filed last month in Oahu’s 1st Circuit Court, alleging DLNR should have conducted environmental review before issuing aquarium permits.

Some supporters say such actions are needed because the state has failed to enforce laws. Those in the aquarium industry say there’s no enforcement problem and they’re unjustly targeted by a small group of outsiders who continue to mislead the public.

read … Eco-Faddists Target Aquarium Collectors

Connections charter school faces more delays

HTH: The Windward Planning Commission, after hearing testimony from 68 people in a room packed with schoolchildren, delayed approving a special permit for the project.

The permit would be one of the last steps needed for the school to break ground for the campus on state land near Kaumana Drive after seven years of planning.

Most of the people testifying are would-be neighbors to the campus, and opposed the $30 million project over concerns of increased traffic on the narrow, windy road.

Agreeing with some of their concerns, the five-member commission directed the school to pursue an alternate access route from Puainako Street and provide an estimate for water consumption by its Dec. 6 meeting.

read … Connections

Hawaii delegation leads Congress in its diversity

Question: Why does 'diversity' lead to ideological uniformity?

Answer: Because 'diversity' is their ideology.

Question: Why is Hawaii’s ‘diverse’ political class so uniformly corrupt?

Answer: Because their ideology shields them from inquiry.

Shapiro: Blunder-filled election leaves GOP with the blues

read … Hawaii delegation leads Congress in its diversity

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