Cayetano signs for
consumer protection

Party rhetoric accompanies final
OK for gas cap and health rate bills

Star-Bulletin staff and news services

Gov. Ben Cayetano signed four bills into law yesterday including one that would regulate health insurance rates and another that would impose gasoline price caps.

The other two bills signed by the governor would create a state-run prescription drug discount program for all residents and a Medicaid prescription drug discount for lower-income residents.

The day prior to the signing, the governor had said that the bills would define the differences between Democratic and Republican candidates in this fall's elections.

"I think the Democratic Legislature showed and demonstrated it's back on track again ... standing up to the oil companies and the big insurance companies and doing what they thought was right for the person on the street," he said. "That's Democratic politics and we're going to win in November if we can pull together and get that message across."

State Insurance Commissioner Wayne Metcalf, whose division shepherded the health insurance rate regulation bill through the Legislature, characterized the new law as a major victory for working families and small businesses.

"This is a victory against powerful special interests who dominate the market and those who pander to them," he said.

"Hawaii had the embarrassing distinction of being one of only two states in the country that did not provide for oversight of health care plans in some fashion."

That law takes effect Jan. 1, 2003

Earlier this week, Republican gubernatorial candidate Linda Lingle denounced the gasoline cap and health insurance regulation bills and a pending bottle recycling bill as anticompetitive, saying they'll only hurt the business climate and lead to higher prices.

She said the three bills are all set to take effect in a few years, "because those people who voted for those items know that they are bad ideas that won't work, but they wanted to pacify the public right now ... to make themselves look good."

Lingle said the bottle bill does nothing to create a market for recyclable products and without it "all you have is separated garbage."

To address high gasoline and health insurance prices, the state needs to repeal laws that have restricted competition, not try to regulate the industries, Lingle said.

Cayetano said the differences between Lingle and the Democratic candidates for governor "all will be fleshed out in the campaign, if we play it right.

"Her messages primarily are shaped by Communications Pacific, that same organization that does the (public relations) for Chevron and all of these folks," he said. "And if she goes by the script, she will eventually stumble along the way and demonstrate the kind of a plan that she has is not workable."

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