Pubdate: Sun, 15 May 2016
Source: Honolulu Star-Advertiser (HI)
Copyright: 2016 Star Advertiser
Author: David Shapiro


The Hawaii Legislature's fixation on marijuana as a medical cure-all 
is starting to resemble a remake of the Cheech and Chong classic, "Up 
in Smoke."

As lawmakers meticulously tweaked the medical marijuana law that 
could see local dispensaries selling pot within months, more pressing 
medical concerns - failing state hospitals, doctor shortages, 
bullying insurers - got little relief in the 2016 session.

The Legislature grudgingly threw cash-strapped Wahiawa General 
Hospital a $2.5 million Band-Aid only because the district's senator 
was in a position to hold up the entire state budget without it.

But on the bigger issue of shoring up neighbor island state 
hospitals, legislators undermined the Ige administration's deal to 
privatize three Maui hospitals over union objections by voting overly 
generous severance and retirement benefits for hospital workers.

The measure could cost more than $40 million, strain the already 
underfunded state retirement system and poison privatization deals on 
other islands.

Meantime, neighbor island patients continue to face critical gaps in 
their medical care and must travel to Honolulu for common treatments.

Or they can stay home and get stoned on state-approved weed.

The Legislature in its final hours killed a bill that would have 
allowed specially trained psychologists to prescribe drugs in rural 
areas, where often there are no psychiatrists to treat mental health patients.

But legislators had no problem passing a bill that allows nurses to 
prescribe marijuana, circumventing physicians who decline to certify 
patients for pakalolo use.

Another bill that died late in the session would have made the Hawaii 
Medical Service Association legally responsible for patient injuries 
caused by its controversial new policy of requiring doctors to get 
pre-authorization from a mainland company before ordering imaging tests.

If HMSA is going to override a doctor's medical judgment, why 
shouldn't the insurer take on the liability for a bad outcome?

Maybe Tutu can smoke a joint to calm her stress while she waits for 
approval of her heart scan.

A "right to try" bill passed by the Legislature to give terminally 
ill patients access to treatments that have been safely used in 
clinical trials but are not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug 
Administration was vetoed by Gov. David Ige for stepping on the FDA's 
authority to regulate drugs.

But Ige has no problem with moving ahead on medical marijuana, which 
is unapproved by the FDA and illegal under federal law.

In their most audacious act on public health, legislators passed a 
bill declaring that the disastrous failure of the local Obamacare 
exchange - at a cost of $200 million - was nobody's fault, absolving 
the directors, the staff and themselves.

Lawmakers described the abandoned Hawaii Health Connector as 
"successful" even though "it did not end up working."

They've been smoking too much from their own medicine chest.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom