Isles to get
Waianae Health Center willBy Harold Morse and Helen Altonn
get $500,000 of the extra
funds next month
Hawaii expects to get an extra $6 million each year in federal funds under a new formula for allocating Medicaid money, says state Human Services Director Susan Chandler.
One of the first beneficiaries will be the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center.
Chandler last night told about 100 Waianae residents that $500,000 will be provided for the center early next month.
She said Gov. Ben Cayetano had made a commitment to help the center before it was learned Monday that the Medicaid formula had changed. After she reported the federal action to him, he said, "do it now."
He has asked Budget Director Earl Anzai to find the money, possibly from the state's share of Medicaid funding, she said. It would be replaced in October when the federal fiscal year begins.
The additional federal money in the state's 1999-2000 fiscal year will be about $4 million and thereafter about $6 million yearly, Chandler said.
The Federal Medical Assistance Program adjusted Hawaii's formula for state-federal matching Medicaid funds from 50-50 to 51-49. So instead of getting 50 percent in federal funds, Hawaii will get 51 percent.
Chandler said this is a routine adjustment. "We've been trying through the political process through Congress to increase it because of our medical needs and cost of living."
Hawaii's 50 percent has been the lowest amount given to states under the formula. Alaska's federal share of Medicaid funds is 58 percent, and some states get more, Chandler said.
She said the governor will submit an amended biennium budget request to the Legislature because of the additional money.
Requests still are pending in the Legislature to subsidize the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Center's emergency room, she said.
Her news was welcome since the town meeting at the Waianae District Park multi-purpose room had been called to back legislation to bring more state money to the center.
Earlier, Richard Bettini, center director, told residents the center had about $1 million less to operate on in 1998 than it had the previous year.
"We had to let 40 people go," he said. "We've been struggling to cut back."
By last week, the operating deficit had been reduced to about $250,000 for the year, he said.
"My first year at the health center was 1979. At that time, the federal government paid for about two-thirds of the budget." But now, in the current fiscal year, the federal government is paying about 7 percent of the budget, he said.
Health care insurance through managed care and other innovations have also reduced income for the center.
Through all this, some dedicated staff members took voluntary pay cuts to keep the center going, Bettini said.
Two legislative bills are still alive: one to provide $520,000 and another to earmark $700,000 for the Waianae facility.
He urged residents to write any legislator they know or anyone involved with state government who might help. "We absolutely need to be subsidized by the state if we're going to keep an emergency room open out here," he said.