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Hawai‘i Congressional Delegation Introduce New Bill To Strengthen, Protect Health Care For Seniors In Hawai‘i

Protecting Access To Health Care in Hawai‘i Act Would Provide Fair Medicare Reimbursements, Help Retain, Recruit Health Care Providers

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai‘i) and U.S. Representatives Jill Tokuda (D-Hawai‘i) and Ed Case (D-Hawai‘i) today introduced new bicameral legislation that would help strengthen and protect health care for seniors in Hawai‘i. The Protecting Access To Care in Hawai‘i (PATCH) Act would provide fair Medicare reimbursements to Hawai‘i providers, helping retain and recruit more doctors and protect access to health care for seniors across the state.

“As more people reach Medicare age in Hawai‘i, we are seeing fewer health care providers because of the rising operating and living costs in our state,” said Senator Schatz. “Our bill would help fix that, boosting Medicare payments to providers and protecting health care access for the 300,000 seniors in Hawai‘i that rely on Medicare.”

“Hawai‘i’s high cost of living and unique geography makes it difficult to attract and retain physicians, further contributing to our increasing shortage of physicians,” said Senator Hirono. “Medicare physician reimbursements in Hawai‘i are also some of the lowest in the country, adding another obstacle in accessing and providing health care. I’m proud to support this legislation to help ensure that our physicians—and other health professionals—are being fairly compensated, while also expanding access to health care across the state.”

“Hawai‘i consistently ranks among the healthiest states in the U.S., yet one of the worst states to practice medicine because of lower compensation and higher operating costs. Especially on our Neighbor Islands, this is exacerbating the access to health care crisis that exists, often making it difficult to recruit and retain physicians and to get patients the timely quality care they need,” said Representative Tokuda. “My legislation would ensure Medicare reimbursements more accurately reflects the real cost to provide care in Hawai‘i so that we can keep more local doctors and attract new physicians to the state. Preserving healthcare access in Hawai‘i is paramount to supporting the health and well-being of our people and providing greater stability for families, businesses, and our economy."

“For years, medical practitioners have struggled with ensuring access to and providing quality medical care, while dealing with the mounting cost of doing business in our geographically isolated state,” said Representative Case. “Hawai‘i faces a critical shortage of health care providers, in large part because medical practices are not financially viable due to the current Medicare reimbursements not being enough to cover the high costs of providing health care services in Hawai‘i. This results in lower access to care for our kupuna and significantly higher mortality and morbidity rates for our underserved populations, especially in the rural communities of our state. This bill will help our health care providers focus on providing care through Medicare and spend less time worrying about inadequate reimbursement.”

Medicare physician payments per beneficiary in Hawai‘i are the lowest in the country. While health care operating costs in Hawai‘i are substantially higher than in other states, its Medicare reimbursement rates do not account for those rising costs. The PATCH Act would increase health care provider payments by 24 percent, ensuring more doctors stay in Hawai‘i to help provide care to Hawai‘i’s 300,000 Medicare beneficiaries.

“There is a serious physician workforce shortage in Hawai‘i that affects the ability of residents in the state to access care in a timely manner. We’ve known for decades that Medicare physician reimbursements in the state do not accurately reflect the actual costs of providing care. Because of our state’s unique island geography and distance from the continental US, more steps need to be taken by Medicare to ensure that all Hawai‘i residents can see a doctor when they need one. The Protecting Access to Care in Hawai‘i (PATCH) Act will provide long-overdue relief to our state by ensuring that physicians are paid fairly for their services. We are very grateful to our delegation for their continued focus on this important issue and look forward to working more with the sponsors to make this needed change,” said Hilton Raethel, President and CEO of Healthcare Association of Hawai‘i.

The full text of the bill is available here.