Senate but was deferred in the House Health Committee by chairwoman Rep. Della Au Bellati who had concerns over safeguards, record-keeping, and physician training to be able to prescribe for aid in dying. While the bill was put on hold this session, the bill is likely to be taken up next year.
Sen. Karl Rhoads, who introduced SB 1129, said the bill will be alive next session. “It won’t have to start over. The House Health Committee could rehear it if they choose to. The language could be changed, but the current version has more safeguards than the Oregon law which has been in effect for 20 years. There are other tweaks that could be usefully made, but fundamentally the bill is fine as is.”
Medicare 2017: Medicare is perhaps the single-most important issue highly valued by seniors; yet it seems to be in constant danger. Prior to 2017, there were serious talks by Republicans of turning it into a privatized voucher system that would place a greater financial burden on the shoulder of beneficiaries. But 2017 was safe from any major overhaul; the program underwent slight increases in premiums, deductibles and copayments for some plans. That said, as late as December this year, with the passage of the GOP Tax bill that slashes corporate taxes and adds over $1.5 trillion to an already massive national deficit, there are talks in the halls of Congress that Republicans’ next major move is to lower the deficit by making cuts to social programs, and possibly to Medicare and Medicaid.
#9 Housing Shortage and Homelessness: Hawaii’s unrivaled year-round sunny weather, minimal land space, skyrocketing real estate, runaway rent prices, low affordable inventory, and lower waged, service-based economy all combine to create a statewide housing shortage and the nation’s highest per-capita homelessness problem. Just how bad is Hawaii’s housing crunch? The Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism projected in a study that the state will need 64,700 to 66,000 new housing units for the 2015-2025 period. In the county of Honolulu alone, that demand is 25,847 for the same period.
Gavin Thornton, co-executive director of Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice, said a $2 billion housing development effort is needed. “It’s going to require some pretty drastic action like that if you want to make some real progress,” said Thornton.
Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU): The state, private sector, counties and community realize more must be done. The Chronicle reported on one program run by the City and County of Honolulu that can help to alleviate the housing shortage -- the Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) ordinance. Administered by the City’s Department of Planning and Permitting, Hawaii homeowners can apply for a permit to build an ADU unit on their property to be rented out. As its name suggests, an ADU is an accessory dwelling to the main house on a property or a second dwelling unit with its own kitchen, bedroom and bathroom facilities. The ADU may be connected to the main house or detached. Unlike the Ohana dwelling property that most residents already know about, ADUs are not restricted to occupancy of family members. Non-family members can live in an ADU.
Aiea resident Serafin Colmenares, health coordinator for the State Health Planning and Development Agency, believes ADUs can definitely help with Hawaii’s housing shortage and high rentals. “I think it is a good idea. It enables extended families to live together and strengthen family cohesiveness. It also will help families to save money. It could also be an income opportunity for people who have extra space to rent out. As a homeowner, I would be willing to build an ADU. If I were a renter, I wouldn’t mind living in an ADU in my child’s house. This is especially beneficial for older people who live on fixed incomes,” said Colmenares.
#10, #11, #12, #13 Community Events: 2017 was another year that the community came out with strong support for big community events. The Chronicle dedicated cover stories for the Filipino Fiesta, Doctors-On-Stage Production of “Downtrodden,” Waipahu Town’s 120th year anniversary, and the Pasko celebrations of the FilCom Center and Filipino Association of University Women (FAUW) Hawaii.
Filipino Fiesta: This year’s Filipino Fiesta marked its 25th year anniversary. To give a perspective of how long the fiesta has been around, 25 years ago George H.W. Bush (the first one) just lost the presidency to Bill Clinton. Since the inception of the Filipino Fiesta, it has been the biggest event for the Filipino community to come together and share its culture and pride with the rest of the state.
Doctors-On-Stage: Every two years, Doctors-On-Stage presents a musical production to benefit the Bayanihan Clinic Without Walls (BCWW), a non-profit organization which gives free medical and dental services to underserved immigrants and uninsured Hawaii residents. This year, Doctors-On-Stage presented “Downtrodden,” the seventh musical production put together and performed by physicians, medical professionals, and their family and friends. Organizers said it was a record-breaking fundraising year for the event; and the production held up to its usual top caliber standard.
Current president of BCWW Dr. Russell Tacata said “Since BCWW continues to survive despite a lack of government funding, through Doctors-On-Stage, we are able to generate funds to continue our mission of service to immigrant and homeless individuals who cannot afford medical insurance.”
Waipahu Town 120th Anniversary: On Saturday, November 18, thousands of Waipahu and residents across the island came together for one grand extravaganza, the event-of-events in Waipahu to celebrate the town’s anniversary at August Ahrens Elementary School. Henry Aquino, Executive Director of WCA, said of the anniversary “this is a milestone that is momentous for our community. Waipahu has always been a place of rich heritage that is deeply rooted from our plantation past. To be a part of this celebration means a lot and gives all residents of today to look back and to see how far we’ve come.”
The Waipahu Community Association and its collaborating partners Leeward YMCA, the FilCom Center and Hawaii’s Plantation Village coordinated a series of events celebrating Waipahu’s 120th year anniversary that culminated with the extravaganza at August Ahrens.
Pasko celebrations: The Filipino Community Center presented its 11th Annual Pasko sa FilCom. FAUW Pasko celebrated its 30 year or Pearl anniversary. Both events, free and open to the public, continued to share the Filipino Christmas tradition and culture with the entire state. Rose Cruz Churma, FAUW member and former President of the FilCom Center, said “These traditions define usand it is important to pass it on, not only to Filipinos, but to share it with the rest of Hawaii’s diverse community.” The Pasko events continue to grow and is becoming (in popularity) the winter version of the Filipino Fiesta held in spring -- a kind of bookends annual celebration for the Filipino community.
#14 The American Health Care Act (AHCA) or Trumpcare Flop: The failure of AHCA was a huge disaster averted. This legislative misadventure showed Americans just how green the president was in the way of pushing forward major bills, especially one that is as complex and far reaching as healthcare reform. Besides the president’s inapt leadership style, AHCA failed on substance. AHCA’s future spelled doom immediately after the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its analysis: 24 million Americans would lose coverage over the next 10 years14 million in the first year alone; 2 million Americans with employer-sponsored coverage would lose it by 2020; 7 million would lose it over 10 years; higher premiums, higher deductibles, and more out-of-pocket costs; insurance premiums would skyrocket by 20% by 2019; $880 billion in cuts to Medicaid funding while giving rich Americans and corporations a $592 billion tax cut. Besides the health insurance and pharmaceutical lobby, most Americans disapproved of AHCA. A Quinnipiac poll found just 17 percent of Americans approved AHCA; by contrast, 56 percent disapproved of it.
The AARP Hawaii said AHCA threatens the solvency of Medicare and would hurt long-term care and in-home services for seniors. “The bill gives sweetheart deals to drug and insurance companies while doing nothing to lower the cost of health care or prescription drugs. Instead of this harmful bill, we encourage Congress to focus on protecting and improving Medicare’s benefits and financing; providing access to affordable quality coverage; preventing insurers from engaging in discriminatory practices,” said AARP Hawaii state director Barbara Kim Stanton.
#15 Opioid Crisis: The Chronicle tackled the opioids crisis in a cover story this year. It’s a statistic hard to believe but drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50, according to a report by the New York Times. There were 65,000 total deaths nationwide from drug overdoses in 2016 alone. The explosion of opioid overdoses is driving up the rates of overall drug overdoses. The latest official stats from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows that in 2015 close to 30,000 people nationwide overdosed on prescription opioids. Dr. Tom Friedman, head of the CDC, said of opioids “We know of no other medication routinely used for nonfatal condition that kills patients so frequently.”
The opioid drug problem is both a prescription and street drug problem. That is one reason it has mushroomed into the large-scale public health crisis of today. One way of combatting the problem, Hawaii physician Nestor Herana said, “Prescriber education is vital in the solution to this epidemic. Physicians need to educate themselves in the proper manner to prescribe opioids. Overprescribing can be dealt with by learning how to prescribe opioids cautiously and rationally. Pain management can be part of a multi-faceted comprehensive plan with emphasis on risk assessment and risk reduction. Having an exit plan is key before the start of any opioid therapy.”
Other Notable Stories of 2017 covered in the Hawaii Filipino Chronicle: President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-drug campaign and extrajudicial killings; North Korea’s nuclear program and the threat of war with the U.S.; funding for Honolulu’s Rail; Charlottesville KKK and the rise of white supremacists; the U.S. exit from the Paris Accord; the new age of Media and so called “fake” news; a whistle-blowing year for sexual misconduct; the need to change the outdated Electoral College system; the Orlando and Las Vegas shootings and curbing gun violence; the religious right’s power in the U.S.; saving the millions of acres of National Parks; the legal consequences of Joe Arpaio’s pardon; the Trump-Russia investigations; support for small businesses; and the cultural war and national anthem controversies.