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Monday, May 6, 2002

HMSA's accounting demands oversight

The Hawaii Medical Service Association publicly reporting its annual profit or loss without first including its profits and losses from its for-profit subsidiaries is inexplicable ("However it's figured, HMSA posts profit," Star-Bulletin, May 3).

Its for-profit enterprises, including two workers' compensation insurance companies, a life insurance company and a so-called "business incubator" company, were necessarily acquired and supported with income derived from employer and member premiums. While, as the legislators who voted for health insurance rate oversight understood, HMSA's profits for purposes of setting rates should include its investment earnings, they should especially include any profit from its for-profit enterprises.

In view of HMSA's propensity to downplay its true earnings, businesses and the state insurance commissioner should be wary that HMSA does not unfairly and excessively raise premiums before the new rate oversight law kicks in.

Richard S. Miller
Professor of Law, Emeritus
Consultant, The Hawaii Coalition for Health

Cushman cops quickly come to the rescue

Lying on the hot, dirty asphalt next to the Ala Wai Canal among the debris of a damaged electric vehicle after being in an accident is not the best way to enjoy a vacation. Fortunately for this young man, the response time for our emergency vehicles is wonderful.

One of those Krazy Karz electric vehicles in a group of four was struck by a car and bounced its way down the Ala Wai Boulevard between Lewers and Kaiolu streets. One of the two young men in the electric cart appeared to be injured, holding his arm and looking none to steady on his feet.

People from a nearby apartment building called for police and an ambulance.

The ambulance crew loaded the young man onto a stretcher and into the ambulance. A fireman began sweeping up the broken glass while the police documented the accident.

Eventually the group of electric cars left. After being hit and flung bouncing up the street, the one that crashed could still drive.

We are lucky in Waikiki. The police in Cushmans appear magically within minutes of being called. These Cushmans are one of the police department's best investments.

Thanks to the tremendous training of our police department and ambulance crews, the injured young man was taken to the hospital, the debris was cleared and the witnesses were rounded up and interviewed. All in all, a lot of work by a grand group of men and women. Thank you from one resident of Waikiki.

Arnold Van Fossen

Thanks for tooting Abercrombie's horn

What is Star-Bulletin contributing editor John Flanagan trying to do, take my job as Rep. Neil Abercrombie's spokesperson?

Well, flattery will get him nowhere ("Good ship Abercrombie takes to the waves," Talk Story, April 30). He may even have hurt his cause with the hoomalimali in his "Good ship Abercrombie" column.

This column praised the congressman so shamelessly that it raises questions about the Star-Bulletin's long-standing reputation for balanced judgment when it comes to Abercrombie.

In fact, Flanagan got so carried away in his tribute that he made a factual mistake. The tugboat named after Neil Abercrombie is not a Navy vessel. It is a private boat built, owned and operated by the Honolulu firm of P&R Water Taxi. The company has a contract to service Navy vessels in Pearl Harbor.

Flanagan could have learned this from the news article his own paper published two days earlier. Too bad he was so dazzled by hero worship that he forgot to check the facts.

Michael Slackman
Communications Director
For Hawaii Rep. Neil Abercrombie


"They (Democrats) don't have the courage of their convictions. If they believed in their convictions, why not implement it now? That's what makes me believe they are scared of not getting re-elected."

Linda Lingle
Republican candidate for governor, on the Democrats' uncertainty about staying in power, which she said was revealed by the tentativeness of bills enacted during the legislative session, including a cap on the price of gasoline that goes into effect in 2004. Lingle was speaking at the Hawaii GOP state convention held Saturday in Waikiki.

Hawaii can be proud of Tugboat Neil

Much has been made over the appropriateness of naming a tugboat after Rep. Neil Abercrombie. If I were sailing in troubled waters, I certainly would want the help of our persistent, powerful, compassionate and concerned representative to get to a safe harbor and out of harm's way.

Equally important, however, is that the tugboat was designed locally, built locally and crewed locally, and, while supporting Navy ships and submarines, homeported locally. From the designer, to the owner, to the welders, to the line-handlers, I found unanimity of pride in their accomplishments. Congratulations to all.

John Priolo

Paper's new owners invest in free speech

Congratulations to those very special families that have recently invested in the Star-Bulletin, providing a local financial and civic interest in the freedom of expression and of the press ("Isle groups buy stake in Bulletin and MidWeek" Star-Bulletin, April 18).

These local leaders and their families have taken action to preserve the access to information for the people of Hawaii. They deserve the gratitude and respect of their family, future generations and, hopefully, the people of Hawaii as well.

David Miho

Matsuura had support against assisted death

I was bothered by Roland Halpern's April 4 letter supporting physician-assisted suicide. If physician-assisted suicide is so popular, why is it legal only in Oregon? Why did it barely squeak by there? Why did Sen. David Matsuura's mail on the subject run 40 percent for to 60 percent against? Why was this legislation opposed by the Hawaii Medical Association, the Hawaii Nursing Association and Hospice Hawaii?

The truth is that this atrocity was strong-armed through the House by the governor who first stacked the deck with his handpicked "Blue Ribbon Commission on Living and Dying with Dignity," and then presented it as the "will of the people." As to the 30-20 vote in the House, how can that be taken seriously when a Democratic caucus was called immediately before the vote, where lots of arm-twisting occurred as well as lots of high-powered talk by mainland lawyers pushing this mainland export?

Personally, I don't see the aloha in handing deadly pills to someone suffering from an incurable disease when there have been so many recent advances in pain control and hospice care.

I applaud Matsuura. He knew this bill would have caused torment and pain in families by pressuring folks to take their lives, rather than risk becoming a financial burden on their families.

Susan Matoi
Kaunakakai, Hawaii

What's next in line for price caps?

I will grant Jerome Manis his definition of socialism (Letters, May 1), but it is only a degree away from the management in the gas cap bill.

What's next? Let's cap the prices on movies, which just went up to $8? Maybe cap the prices on cars or restaurant meals?

I know I'm exaggerating and that some things are optional and gasoline is not, but where does government control start and stop? Gubernatorial candidate Andy Anderson has suggested a state-managed, state-owned gasoline supplier. As to the gas price cap based on the West Coast per-gallon rates, my husband and I just drove from Orange County, Calif., through Arizona. In Arizona we paid around $1.39 per gallon, and when we crossed back into California, it shot up to more than $1.80.

Gasoline is now $1.59 per gallon here. May I ask what is so wonderful about the West Coast price?

Shirley Hasenyager

New governor may want regs repealed

Governor Cayetano's praise of the Legislature for passing regulatory bills reconfirms Hawaii as anti-business. As a lameduck, he has nothing to lose. Legislators, however, have a lot to lose -- their re-election and whether the Democrats can keep their majority in the House.

The regulatory bills are full of bureaucratic junk. For example, placing a cap on gasoline prices will force the closing of independently owned service stations. No matter if the bill is to take effect a year after passage, it is a bad bill that doesn't allow for competition.

The governor said that he would sign the regulatory bills, but they may be amended, repealed, or challenged by a new governor.

Drew Kosora

How to write us

The Star-Bulletin welcomes letters that are crisp and to the point (150 to 200 words). The Star-Bulletin reserves the right to edit letters for clarity and length. Please direct comments to the issues; personal attacks will not be published. Letters must be signed and include a daytime telephone number.

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