Monday, November 17, 2003


Change the law to
reduce drug prices


Governor Lingle is supporting a Democrat-sponsored law aimed at providing reduced prescription drug prices to the uninsured.

LOWER-income Hawaii residents lacking health insurance will benefit from the newly bipartisan support to implement a law that should significantly reduce prescription drug prices. Governor Lingle had criticized the law but now supports the program with the proviso that it be altered to make it more effective and be limited to helping people who can't afford current prescription drug prices.

Proponents of Hawaii Rx are welcoming Lingle's support. They should have little trouble working together to produce a final plan that will help the state's lower-income residents and comply with a recent court ruling.

The U.S. Supreme Court in May gave the green light to a Maine program, called Maine Rx, which uses the state's buying power under Medicaid to negotiate bulk discounts from pharmaceutical companies. Maine officials claim it will cut drug prices by 25 percent. The Bush administration, business groups and conservative legal organizations had sided with the drug industry in urging the court to block the law.

The Hawaii law, called Hawaii Rx, is patterned after the Maine law. Its implementation was scheduled for next July in expectation of the court decision. Hawaii Rx, as written by the 2002 Legislature, would benefit all of the state's 228,000 uninsured residents.

Gregory Marchildon, state director of the American Association of Retired Persons, suggests that an income cap be adopted for eligible consumers. He suggests a cap of 350 percent of the poverty line, or $34,500 for a single person and $76,000 for a family of four.

Another program, called Healthy Hawaii, would benefit residents making less than triple the poverty level. However, the Maine law after which it was patterned was struck down by a federal appeals court last December as an illegal expansion of the Medicaid program. Altering Hawaii Rx could provide benefits basically to that same group without violating Medicaid, and would allow Healthy Hawaii to be shelved.

Lingle had criticized Hawaii Rx as a "feel-good bill," offering instead a two-year program supported by a $3 million grant from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation to provide free prescription drugs to low-income people. That program will be terrific but for only 20,000 people, while Hawaii Rx will help thousands of other residents who have difficulty paying for medication.


Military should clear
Waikane training site


The Marine Corps has determined that training in Waikane Valley would be unsafe because of unexploded ordnance.

AS THE Navy did with Kahoolawe, the Marine Corps should do in Waikane Valley -- clean it up and fulfill an obligation it made decades ago. If the 187 acres of land is too dangerous for use as a training ground, as the Marine Corps officials determined last week, it is certainly unsafe for anything else and should not be left as is.

Now the Marines are looking to acquire land on Molokai or elsewhere in Hawaii for the jungle training it planned in Waikane, but the military's track record on land stewardship will impede community acceptance. Moreover, with the Pentagon's new exemptions from environmental laws in the defense appropriations bill that just cleared Congress, the public will look askance at demands for use of land by the military in Hawaii.

From before World War II through the 1960s, the military had leased the Waikane land from the Kamaka family and used it for weapons training. About 13 years ago, after several attempts to remove ammunition, shells and explosives, the Marines Corps acquired the land through condemnation when it found that the project would cost more than it wanted to spend, even though terms of the lease required restoring the property to its original condition.

Last used in 1976, the corps in 2002 began an environmental assessment for using the property again for training, but officials found that records were insufficient to determine whether it could be done safely and that too many unexploded ordnance remained.

Because of its location and environmental conditions, Hawaii is particularly attractive to the military. However, as habitat for the largest number of endangered species in the nation, it is vulnerable enough to natural changes, not to mention bombs, mortars and 20-ton, eight-wheeled armored vehicles of the Stryker brigade proposed to be based on Oahu and the Big Island.

With the Department of Defense being freed from having to comply with the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the military's behavior in environmental matters should be cautious as it proposes increased acreage for its functions here. Although Congress, including Hawaii's delegation -- Sen. Daniel Akaka excepted -- gave it license to set aside these laws, it cannot ignore the strong ties people in Hawaii have to the land.

The Marine Corps plans to spend $800,000 to build a fence around the Waikane property to replace the present string of wires and warning signs that are often ignored by dirt-bike riders, hikers and hunters. That money might be better spent to clean up the land. A promise is a promise.



Oahu Publications, Inc. publishes the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, MidWeek and military newspapers

David Black, Dan Case, Larry Johnson,
Duane Kurisu, Warren Luke, Colbert
Matsumoto, Jeffrey Watanabe,
Frank Teskey, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, Editor, 529-4791;
Michael Rovner, Assistant Editor, 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, Assistant Editor, 529-4762;

Mary Poole, Editorial Page Editor, 529-4748;

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