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Legislative Update On HHSC Privatization Bills

February 12, 2015

On Wednesday, Feb. 11, HGEA Unit 9 member Susie Uwēko‘olani testified before the Senate Health, Judiciary and Labor, and Commerce and Consumer Protection Committees opposing S.B. 795 and S.B. 311, which would pave the way for a private operator to run the state’s safety net hospital system in the Maui Region. She also delivered written testimony from more than 50 HGEA members who oppose privatization. To see a video clip of her testimony, click here.
At the hearing, Ray Vara, president & CEO of Hawaii Pacific Health, reiterated HPH’s position that all current hospital employees who qualify for their jobs will be kept on for six months if the private operator takes over management. Under legislative questioning, Hawaii Pacific Health stated that after six months the company would have the option to restructure.

Although Vara did state that it is the company’s preference to hire Maui residents for Maui facilities first, he admitted that layoffs were possible under the private operator’s business model.

Also of note, a deputy attorney general testified that S.B. 795 has no language to allow negotiations with public sector unions regarding collective bargaining and that if passed in current form, S.B. 795 could be challenged in court. The attorney general’s office also stated again that current legislators cannot guarantee future subsidies for the private operator as is called for in S.B. 795.

On balance there was also much testimony in support of privatizing the HHSC Maui Region.

Again, HGEA is calling for recentralization and reform through full financial and management audits before the state takes the drastic step of privatizing the Maui Region of HHSC operations. The current proposal will greatly affect all unionized public workers and “transition” them to the wage and benefit structure of the private company. However, state taxpayers will continue to fund operating and capital improvement subsidies for at least 10 years.

Next week we anticipate the House will hear both H.B. 1112 (calling for recentralization and audits), which HGEA supports, and H.B. 1075 (privatization), which we oppose. Please make your concerns known to legislators and be on the lookout for another eBulletin that will include hearing date and time details along with contact information so you can submit testimony.

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