Usually, I would write about a particular bill or issue of interest. There were quite a few choices in yesterday’s public hearings of the Health Committee. Universal health care was a topic of discussion. So was emergency funding for Honolulu’s EMS services. And pain management. As well as increasing reimbursements to providers by insurance companies and leveling the playing field between non-profit and for-profit insurance companies – increasing competition, if you will.
While many of these issues are important and interesting, there was a civility/protocol issue that was disturbing in yesterday’s hearing. Of the many bills on the Health committee’s agenda today, HMSA was a testifier. Indeed, as the largest health insurance provider in town, they have a stake in much of the legislation in the health arena. Increasing health care insurance premiums does not make HMSA the most popular company in the State, or this Legislature, it seems. Even more so when the Chair of the Health Committee is a health care provider (a doctor) and one of the pressing issues in health care today is reimbursement rates to providers.
Time and again, the Chair of the Health Committee took the opportunity in the questioning period to attack HMSA for their shortcomings or opposition to measures, taking a sometimes angry and condescending approach to their testimony. Through it all, HMSA’s representative responded with grace and dignity.
Being a member of the Minority Party in the State House of Representatives, I can sympathize with the dynamic of being painted “the bad guy” and attacked as such. What we should remember as people, and lawmakers, is that we serve the public, even individuals or entities that we may not appreciate or agree with, but that we should treat with civility. Our democratic form of government was purposely created in such a way as to allow for different points of view to be heard. It is not the most efficient form of government, but it is the best. And civility, amongst persons of different viewpoints is key to promoting democracy. What was practiced in yesterday’s Health Committee by its Chair went a bit too far and was the most disappointing aspect of the hearing beyond whatever policy was crafted.