CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Ete Paopao, left, Jonathan Hewett, Frank Kloloia and Lua Maufahu packaged food for the needy yesterday at St. James Church in Palolo. Volunteers plan to give away more than 300 boxes as part of an outreach program that has been in operation for more than 20 years, one of the largest in the city. Students from several public and private schools and churches in the area collected the food.
Coalition celebrates health advocacy
The Hawaii Coalition for Health, an advocacy organization for health consumers, recently celebrated what president Arlene Jouxson Meyers called "10 terrific years of doing a lot with a little."
Meyers, the force behind the coalition, recently recounted the coalition's history in a talk and a written message at an anniversary dinner at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel.
She said the coalition targeted managed care because of broken promises for fewer uninsured and better health outcomes for less cost. "'Managed care' has assumed unprecedented power to control the demand for and access to services and has imposed unreasonable limits on funding for expensive care."
Meyers said hospitals "have taken unprecedented control" of the practice of medicine, employing specialists and forcing out independent physicians. The concentration of power in a few health insurers also is a major reason why doctors are leaving Hawaii, she said.
"Not only might we not be able to handle a natural disaster, should one occur, but we are also finding it difficult to be able to keep up with medical trends offered to patients elsewhere in the country," she said.
Despite limited resources, the Wahiawa pediatrician and lawyer said the coalition is proud of its accomplishments. They include new laws to benefit health consumers, helping to save the medical school from closure and creating an "infrastructure of people" to help prevent unfair insurance actions and enable patients and doctors to assert their rights.
Those honored for supporting and participating in the coalition's mission included:
» Richard Miller, University of Hawaii law professor emeritus, who believed in the coalition's mission and provided "invaluable guidance" to the founders.
» Wayne Metcalf, former state senator and insurance commissioner; Judge Rey Graulty, former insurance commissioner, and Sen. Ron Menor. All had key roles in the 1998 passage of a patients' rights bill drafted by Miller. Hawaii was the first state to enact such a law.
Health plans have lobbied the Legislature to repeal the rest of the appeals provision and Menor has worked hard the past two years to avert that, Meyers said.
» Drs. Jon Graham, Jonathan Cho, Morris Mitsunaga, Philip Foti and Kenneth Arakaki were recognized for testifying at appeals hearings and taking other action to ensure their patients obtained insurance coverage to get needed care.
» AlohaCare and its medical director, Dr. Rio Banner, were cited for always finding a way to cover the care members' need.
» Patients who have used the appeal process to fight benefit denials were recognized, such as the late Gordon Chapman and his wife Renne, who successfully fought HMSA to get kyphoplasty as a benefit; Lucile Jarvis of New York who went to Kauai and struggled with HMSA to get her seriously ill daughter, Barbara, discharged from Wilcox Hospital with appropriate home services, and Gregg and Wanda Shelton, who are fighting Kaiser for in-vitro fertilization under their Kaiser coverage.
Also recognized were:
» Mary-Ann Lee-Matsui for fighting to ensure that Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children and its parent, Hawaii Pacific Health, do not treat other patients as they did her and her son, Ross Unebasami.
He had a bone marrow transplant for leukemia at Kapiolani in March 2004 but was not allowed to go into the pediatric intensive care unit a month later, Meyers wrote. His oncologist had to transfer him to Queen's, where he died in June 2004.
» Attorneys Rafael del Castillo and Andrew Winer for their efforts on behalf of the coalition and advocacy for patients' rights.
» Dr. Marion Melish for lobbying to save the medical school when it was threatened with closure and "for her scholarship and her professionalism, and for her sense of fairness and justice."
» Dr. Michael Healy, pediatrician, for his leadership in fighting unfair treatment of physicians by hospital administrators.
» Drs. Robert Wilkinson and Kelley Woodruff, pediatric hematologist-oncologists, for fighting Kapiolani Medical Center to maintain pediatric oncology practice and quality of care. And Dr. Walton Shim, pediatric surgeon and leader of the Medical Executive Committee, for protesting termination of Woodruff's privileges by the administration.
» And Star-Bulletin reporter Helen Altonn "who kept the light shining in the press on the issues with which the coalition was struggling ... and helping to change the status quo in health care delivery in Hawaii."