House passes
lame long-term
care plan

The bill creates a board of
trustees that must come up with
a way to fund the program

By B.J. Reyes
Associated Press

A long-term care plan supported by first lady Vicky Cayetano remains alive in the House, but only in a shell of its original form.

A bill approved Tuesday by the House would establish a long-term care program but without a funding mechanism called for in the original proposal, which would have levied a $10 monthly tax on all Hawaii workers over age 25.

Legislature 2002 The bill instead sets up a board of trustees, which is to come up with a way to fund the program and make recommendations to the Legislature next session.

A similar bill was bottled up in the Senate after Health Committee chairman David Matsuura said the proposed financing mechanism was too complex to draft language for this session.

Supporters say a state-run long-term care program is needed as Hawaii's population grows older and becomes unable to afford standard long-term insurance policies.

"This is not the panacea. ... It's not going to take care of everybody's problem. It's not meant to cover nursing home cost," said House Health Committee Chairman Dennis Arakaki (D, Kamehameha Heights-Kalihi Valley).

"It is meant to provide relief to families who are caring for a frail, elderly or disabled family member."

Opponents have labeled the program a hoax and a scam, saying private insurance policies are affordable and offer more care than the state's proposed program.

The House measure passed with 14 of the body's 19 Republicans voting against it. All Democrats voted in favor.

Minority Floor Leader Charles Djou (R, Kahaluu-Kaneohe) said he is not opposed to providing long-term care for elderly residents, but he does not want to see it done at the expense of taxpayers.

"The tax is eventually going to come and hit the people of Hawaii," he said.

Rep. Colleen Meyer (R, Laie-Waikane-Waiahole) added, "It seems clear to me that the intention is to create some kind of tax."

Arakaki said he would request that the board look into financing methods that do not include additional taxes.

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