Hawaii Files Brief in Virginia Lawsuit; State’s Mental Health Budget Cuts; Qantas Raises Fuel Surcharge

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Hawaii Files Brief in Virginia Supporting Healthcare Act


Hawaii has gone to court for a second time to support the federal healthcare reform act, this time filing what’s known as an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Virginia.

Hawaii joined eight other states in submitting the brief that contends they have a “vested interest in protecting the health, safety, and welfare of citizens through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.”

The federal government is appeal a Virginia judge’s ruling late last year that the federal law was unconstitutional because it required citizens to buy health insurance or face a penalty.

Hawaii joined California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maryland, New York, Oregon and Vermont in arguing Congress has the authority to enact the minimum coverage provision under the Commerce Clause.

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie has said court rulings against the healthcare act won’t stop the state from implementing it. He has said the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will ensure Medicare coverage for preventative services such as mammograms.

Earlier this year the state filed another amicus brief in an Ohio court, joining the same group of states. That effort was in support of a Michigan U.S. District Court ruling upholding the Act.

The lawsuit was filed by the Thomas More Law Center, a national Christian public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor Michigan that had sued on behalf of itself and four plaintiffs. The center has criticized the law for what it says is a mandate that requiring all legal residents to purchase “minimum essential” healthcare coverage under penalty of federal law.

Hawaii Mental Healthcare cuts 11th Worst

Hawaii’s mental healthcare spending cuts were the 11th worst in the nation on a percentage basis, according to a report from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Hawaii cut $27.2 million, or 12.1 percent, from its mental healthcare budget between 2009 and 2011, the report said. The Alliance said two-thirds of states have cut their programs in the last three years.

“State mental health cuts are a national crisis,” said NAMI Executive Director Michael J. Fitzpatrick.  “Some states are trying to hold the line or make progress, but most are cutting deep. This stands in contrast to the intense national concern about the mental health care system following the Arizona tragedy two months ago.”

The report focused primarily on non-Medicaid mental health services that are financed with state general funds.

“Cutting mental health means that costs only get shifted to emergency rooms, schools, police, local courts, jails and prisons,” Fitzpatrick said. “The taxpayer still pays the bill.

Honolulu Puts Proposed Operating Budget Online, Seeks Input

Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle has carried through with a pledge to allow people to make suggestions about his proposed operating budget through a new website.

Residents can view the budget and offer their feedback at https://Can-Do.honolulu.gov .

“We welcome everyone to review this important public information about how we plan to utilize public resources,” Carlisle said. “We’re committed to operating with transparency, and we’re calling this project Citizens Analyzing Numbers Discover Opportunity, or ‘Can-Do.’”

The site also features the proposed budget of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, the agency that will oversee the City’s rail transit project, and will have personal financial disclosure statements completed by members of Carlisle’s cabinet.

A website operated by the House Minority Caucus, also hopes to publish details of the state budget. House Minority Leader Rep. Gene Ward said data is being formatted now for placement on the site, www.HawaiiStateBudgetOnline.com.

Honolulu Ranks Highly in Patient Safety, HealthGrades Says

Honolulu is among the 10 U.S. cities with the lowest incidence of patient safety incidents, according to a study of hospitals by HealthGrades, which provide research on physicians and hospitals.

The study, Patient Safety in American Hospitals, found that patients have a 46% lower risk of experiencing a patient safety incident at a top-rated hospital compared to a poorly rated hospital. The researchers examined 40 million Medicare patient records, from 2007 to 2009 to identify preventable medical mistakes that occurred during patients’ hospitalizations.

Honolulu joined Minneapolis-St. Paul; Wichita, KS; Cleveland; Wilkes-Barre, PA; Toledo, OH; Boston; Greenville, SC; Charlotte, NC; and Oklahoma City as having low incidence of medical errors and preventable deaths and complications.

Qantas Raising fuel surcharge for Honolulu, International Flights

Qantas will raise the fuel surcharge on international flights on tickets issued after March 16 because of rising oil and jet fuel prices.

The airline said the surcharge for flights to Honolulu will rise from $75 Australian to $A105.

Hawaii among Top Destinations for Summer Travel

A poll by the American Society of Travel Agents of its members shows Honolulu is still among the favorite summer destinations for vacationers.

Orlando and Las Vegas ranked first and second in the poll o travel agents, with the Florida destination gaining 18 percent of the votes and Las Vegas with 16 percent.

ASTA said rounding out the top 10 after Orlando and Las Vegas were Los Angeles (5%), San Francisco (4%), New York City (3%), Miami, (3%), San Diego (2%), Washington, DC (2%), Honolulu (2%) and Seattle (2%).

Florida again topped the state destinations for the 2011 summer season, accounting for 27 percent of all responses with cities such as Orlando, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and Tampa. Nevada drew the second largest number of responses (16%) with almost all the travel for Las Vegas. California (17%), New York (10%) and Hawaii (9%) rounded out the top five state destinations for summer travel.