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Isle health care act preserved

The new law ensures federal health care reform will not pre-empt Hawaii law

By Derrick DePledge

LAST UPDATED: 3:38 a.m. HST, Jul 13, 2011

Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed a bill into law Tuesday meant to preserve the state's landmark Prepaid Health Care Act as the nation moves toward federal health care reform approved last year by President Barack Obama and Congress.

The new law removes a provision that terminates the 1974 Hawaii law when equal or superior national health care legislation takes effect.

Abercrombie had put the bill on his potential veto list last month because his administration was still consulting with federal officials. The Governor's Office said Tuesday that the state received opinions from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Labor that confirm that the intent is to retain the Prepaid Health Care Act alongside the federal legislation.

The Prepaid Health Care Act, considered a model nationally, requires Hawaii businesses to provide health insurance to employees who work 20 hours a week or more.

"I think he really did it out of an abundance of caution," state Sen. Rosalyn Baker (D, Honokohau-Makena), chairwoman of the Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee, said of the governor's decision to include the bill on the potential veto list.

"He wanted to make sure that we weren't inadvertently doing anything that would harm the Prepaid Health Care Act."

State Rep. Ryan Yamane (D, Waipahu-Mililani), chairman of the House Health Committee, said health insurers — including the Hawaii Medical Service Association, the state's largest — support preserving the Prepaid Health Care Act while implementing new provisions of federal health care reform.

Abercrombie also announced on Tuesday — the deadline for the governor to veto bills passed near the end of session — that he rejected 17 bills. State House and Senate leaders opted not to return for a one-day override session, so the governor's vetoes stand.

Former Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed 50 bills after her first session in 2003. Lawmakers overrode six.

Abercrombie rejected a measure that would have eliminated the statute of limitations on civil lawsuits by victims of child sexual abuse. The Governor's Office said the bill raised grave constitutional and fairness concerns.

The governor also rejected bills that would have required online voter registration by 2014, provided incentives for designating important agricultural land and reduced the felony crimes that trigger mandatory minimum prison terms under the repeat offender law.

Abercrombie chose to sign several bills into law that had been on his potential veto list, including the creation of an interagency task force on vog in Hawaii County and a time line to establish a statewide system of greenways and trails.

A full list of the governor's vetoes is available at Click on "Governor Abercrombie Gives Final Approval on 2011 Legislative Bills."

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