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Friday, January 9, 2004




[ OUR OPINION ]


Hawaii Rx should
reduce drug costs


THE ISSUE

A survey of adults in Hawaii shows that the cost of prescription drugs is of major concern.


LARGE numbers of Hawaii residents are burdened with the high cost of prescription drugs, and a state law enacted two years ago will provide needed assistance. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a similar law in Maine eight months ago. This provides an opportunity for the Hawaii Legislature and Governor Lingle, who supports the law, to work together in making finishing touches to it in preparation for its implementation.

The law provides for a Hawaii Rx program consisting of a state bulk-purchasing pool to negotiate discounts from pharmaceutical companies. Former Maine House Speaker Mike Saxl and Greg Marchildon, AARP Hawaii's director, told a Honolulu news conference that they expect the programs will result in price discounts of up to 60 percent.

Those who qualify in Hawaii are people who earn less than three-and-a-half times the poverty level, ranging, for example, from $36,000 for a single person to $74,500 for a family of four. About 300,000 residents expected to benefit from the program will be issued Hawaii Rx cards to use in receiving the discounts.

A survey conducted for AARP Hawaii confirms that many residents need the help. The survey indicates that 51 percent of adults take prescription drugs on a regular basis, and 27 percent of those spend $100 or more on drugs during a three-month period. Nearly a third of the respondents said they had taken at least one significant cost-reducing measure to pay for the medication.

Maine and Hawaii are the only two states with such laws, which were written loosely because of the anticipated court challenge by pharmaceutical companies. Marchildon said the states now can add more specific language needed to implement the programs and allow the negotiations to begin. Those companies cannot legally refrain from participating, according to Saxl.

Lingle initially criticized the Hawaii Rx legislation as a "feel-good bill" but recently said she favors it, with changes to make it more effective. Cooperation between legislators and the Lingle administration is crucial to the program's success.


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Space exploration
well worth the cost


THE ISSUE

An old-fashioned device designed by a Hawaii artist joins the high-tech gear on the Mars rover.



CORRECTION

Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2003

>> Seven astronauts died last February in the explosion of the space shuttle Columbia. An editorial opinion on Page A12 on Friday said incorrectly that six died.



The Honolulu Star-Bulletin strives to make its news report fair and accurate. If you have a question or comment about news coverage, call Editor Frank Bridgewater at 529-4791 or email him at fbridgewater@starbulletin.com.

THE successful landing of the Spirit on Mars this week was made all the more eloquent by a small, simple device fixed among the mass of highly sophisticated, technological equipment on the robotic rover.

A tiny sundial crafted by a Big Island astronomical artist and inscribed with the Hawaiian word "hokuula," meaning red star, is wholly appropriate considering that the people who discovered these islands mastered navigation by looking to the skies.

The sundial appeared in one of the first images beamed to NASA after Spirit's landing and is designed to note time on Mars and on Earth through electronic indicators as the rover maneuvers across the red planet.

Spirit's flawless touchdown in what NASA described as a "scientific sweet spot" was a great relief to the space agency, which had been plagued by numerous failures. Among the tragic disasters were the explosions of two space shuttles, one in 1986 that claimed seven astronauts, including Hawaii-born Ellison Onizuka, and another last February in which six astronauts died.

The calamities touched off questions about the goals of space exploration and about the cost of NASA's operations. Indeed, the $800 million price tag for Spirit and its twin rover, Opportunity, is steep, but nothing blunts criticism like success. Spirit's landing is the first on Mars since 1997 and clears the embarrassment of NASA's 1999 failure with the Mars Polar Lander.

Still, some see the agency's endeavors as wasteful, given that most of humankind's efforts to explore Mars have fallen to ruin. Last month alone saw the European Space Agency waiting anxiously to hear from its Beagle 2 spacecraft to no avail, while a Japanese orbiter missed its mark and tumbled into the darkness.

In an age when return on investment takes priority, space exploration seems to some an extravagance with little to show as gain. Not so. The U.S. space program has yielded advances large and small, from computer technology, satellite dishes, fuel cells and medical imaging to now-ubiquitous bar codes, plastics for sunglasses and invisible orthodontic braces, cordless tools and lithium batteries.

But those aside, sending robots and people into space fulfills the human desire to acquire knowledge, to discover and probe, to travel from notions and theories to established facts, to find out how the universe functions and how we fit into the scheme.

As Spirit and Opportunity trundle and wheel around Mars for the next three months, they will search for signs of water and other clues to the possibility that some form of life existed or may still exist in an environment so hostile to our own.

Expensive, yes, but worth every bit for discovery. How costly in material and lives were the voyages of men and women crossing perilous and hostile seas, but their mastery of sailing by the stars brought them to Hawaii and expanded their world.

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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,
directors
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Frank Teskey, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, Editor, 529-4791; fbridgewater@starbulletin.com
Michael Rovner, Assistant Editor, 529-4768; mrovner@starbulletin.com
Lucy Young-Oda, Assistant Editor, 529-4762; lyoungoda@starbulletin.com

Mary Poole, Editorial Page Editor, 529-4748; mpoole@starbulletin.com

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin (USPS 249460) is published daily by
Oahu Publications at 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-500, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813.
Periodicals postage paid at Honolulu, Hawaii. Postmaster: Send address changes to
Star-Bulletin, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802.



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