PDHblog This is a place for members of Progressive Democrats of Hawai‘i to express their thoughts, hopes and exasperations about political happenings.

September 15, 2007

Health Care Forum Rocks!

Filed under: 2Healthcare,Dennis Kucinich,HI Politics — BobSchacht @ 9:02 pm

A health care forum was held this afternoon at the University of Hawaii Architecture auditorium. It was organized by Progressive Democrats of Hawaii, with Josh Frost as event organizer*. The panelists included Ah Quon McElrath, Social and Labor Justice Activist, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Representative John Mizuno, Vice Chair of the Hawai’i State House Legislative Health Committee, and Fred Dodge, M.D. I estimate that were at least 150 people in the audience, in an auditorium that seats about 200 people. I’m not going to try to give a complete review here; please feel free to add anything important by leaving a comment.

Josh got things going with a few announcements, including information about Progressive Democrats of Hawai’i. He mentioned our S.H.I.P.S. platform, with its 5 planks: Stop the war; Healthcare for all; Impeach Bush & Cheney; Public funding of elections, and Sustainable environment. This platform drew substantial applause, especially the Impeachment plank.
Ah Quon McElrath, who has been called the Mother Jones of the Hawai’i labor movement, and is at least 83 years old, was the first speaker. She reviewed some of the national reasons for universal health care, and also mentioned legislation on health care in Hawai’i.

Next up was Representative John Mizuno, Vice Chair of the Hawai’i State House Legislative Health Committee. He reviewed what has happened in the Hawai’i legislature. In the last legislative session, HB 1008 was passed. It supports several mechanisms that will ensure that virtually every child in Hawai’i has health insurance coverage. Children up to 300% of poverty can get free Med-QUEST coverage while families with higher incomes can opt for a minimum benefit health plan whose costs will be shared by the State and HMSA. But Mizuno spent most of his time talking about HB 56, which he authored. It would establish a Hawaii health commission to develop a health plan to provide health care coverage for all individuals in the state. He suggested that we contact Sen. Baker to advocate (politely!) for his bill. His slogan was, “Health care is a right, not a privilege.” Later, Josh Frost announced that PDH would track HB 56, and post the information right here on the PDH blog.
The third speaker was Fred Dodge, M.D., who has a family practice in Wai’anae. He talked about the shortage of primary care physicians.

The fourth speaker was Congressman Dennis Kucinich. Of course, he is a co-sponsor of John Conyers HR 676, the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act. He started out by noticing how different the Insurance business is from most other businesses: They make money by not providing health care. He stressed that it makes no sense to try to provide “universal” health care by relying on a system based on profit, because they are fundamentally irreconcilable.

Following the presentations, questions from the audience were invited, and at least 10 people lined up behind a microphone to ask a question. While most of the questions were related to health care, one question asked about public financing of elections– because it would reduce the power of the insurance and pharmacology lobbies in Washington, that resist universal health care.

During this Q & A period, Kucinich made the point that the Medicare system is in trouble right now because of efforts to privatize it, and remove cost controls on medicines (remember the “donut hole”?)
Someone asked Kucinich about collaborating with AARP on universal health care, but he had to remind the questioner that the AARP had its own health insurance program, so they were not in agreement on the way forward.

After the questions wound up, the audience gave the panel a lengthy ovation.

*Co-sponsored by Healthcare for All – Hawai’i, CodePINK Hawai’i, Unite! H.E.R.E. Local 5, Americans for Democratic Action – Hawai’i, the Kokua Council, the Green Party of Hawai’i, the Hawai’i Health Network, the Pacific Justice and Reconciliation Center, the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Physicians for a National Health Program, and the Hepatitis Support Network.


Bob Schacht


  1. I really enjoyed the forum too. All the panelists were great. Ah Quon was amazing! Always nice to hear Dennis speak too. He really knows his stuff.

    Comment by rachel — September 17, 2007 @ 10:56 am

  2. Nice article with audio clips about the event in Ka Leo (UH Campus newspaper).

    Comment by rachel — September 18, 2007 @ 11:03 am

  3. bob, thanks for the post. i’ve been meaning to do, but i’m glad you got one up so quickly. just for clarification, dennis is the co-author of HR676, correct? that’s a bit different than being a co-sponsor, of which i understand the bill has around 100….

    also, i saw the article in Ka Leo am glad that they covered the event, though i’ve sent a letter to the editor with some comments, including the fact that the article (i read it online) makes no mention of any of the sponsors, including PDH. it gives the impression that the event was, one, a campaign event for dennis, and two, organized by UH. hopefully it will get published.

    i also just wanted to say THANKS SO MUCH to everyone who helped put the event together: mary, gail, bart, and ALL the co-sponsors and others that helped get the word out! it wouldn’t have been nearly as successful without all their help.

    Comment by frosty — September 19, 2007 @ 2:29 pm

  4. Rep. Conyers is the sponsor of HR 676. Rep. Kucinich is an original co-sponsor, and the legislation is frequently called the Conyers-Kucinich bill. Hawai`i Reps. Abercrombie and Hirono are also co-sponsors.

    Comment by David Raatz — September 19, 2007 @ 7:40 pm

  5. Healthcare for all… Public funding of elections… Not trying to insult anyone or pick a fight, but is a
    “progressive democrat” just a new name for “socialist”? Because from what I’m reading, that’s all I see.
    Impeaching Bush/Cheney is a valid discussion and so is sustainable living (as long as the private sector does it,
    not the government, they can’t even educate our children properly).

    But you should really read our U.S. Constitution, your idea of “progressive democrat” doesn’t jive with our laws and beliefs. Would love to have a healthy, mature and respectable debate on this because as yourselves, I love Hawai’i and
    wants what’s best for it. We just have different opinions on how to get there.


    Comment by Eric J. Seabury — September 20, 2007 @ 10:49 am

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