Health care hovers over race


POSTED: Friday, March 26, 2010

The three major candidates hoping to join the debate on Capitol Hill over health care reform say more work lies ahead to close the partisan divide created by the bitter debate.

Democrats Ed Case and Colleen Hanabusa and Republican Charles Djou discussed health care reform and other issues yesterday at a forum sponsored by the Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and the Hawaii Association of Realtors.

Although Djou said he would have voted against the bill, he stopped short of saying he would join GOP efforts to repeal it.

“;I think if we do not dramatically reform it and introduce a number of reforms ... then yes, we do need to repeal,”; Djou said. “;But let's try to work on dramatic reform first.”;

The federal legislation aims to crack down on insurance industry abuses and reduce federal deficits by an estimated $143 billion over a decade. Many Americans would be required to buy insurance for the first time, and face penalties if they refuse.

“;It is very clear that there is great unfinished business,”; Case said.

Both Case and Djou said they support medical malpractice and tort reform to bring down providers' costs, as well as increased competition in the insurance market.

“;I believe that we need to create alternatives for people to come into insurance where they're not captive to one particular insurer or one particular plan,”; Case said.

Hanabusa noted that the in the United States, 17 percent of the gross domestic product is related to health care, while in other countries such as Japan, Germany and France, the cost is about 10 percent.

“;It is because they have figured out a way to contain costs,”; she said.

She also noted that Hawaii's law requiring employers to provide health insurance for workers has led to lower premiums.

“;We have understood that the fundamental principle that we all need to deal with is to risk-share and to have as many people covered as possible,”; Hanabusa said. “;It saves us money into the future, and that's why we have the lowest premiums in the nation.”;

There are 14 candidates running in a special election to replace Neil Abercrombie, who resigned from the U.S. House on Feb. 28 to concentrate on his run for governor. Ballots for the special mail-in election are to be mailed out in late April, with results to be tabulated May 22.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.