Hawaii Gov. Pushes Insurance Reforms

January 24, 2008

In her State of the State address to state legislators this week, Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle outlined 180 proposals she is urging lawmakers to support, including a number of measures that would affect the insurance industry and policyholders.

Lingle’s proposals include:
· Cap non-economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits at $250,000 by limiting attorney fees and requiring damages to be allocated based on degree of negligence.
· Provide reasonable immunity from liability to licensed medical professionals who volunteer to help the state provide health services and augment state medical resources.
· Allow information regarding whether a person was wearing a seat belt or a motorcycle helmet to be used when determining negligence in vehicle accidents.
· Prohibit drivers between the ages of 15 ½ and 18 from using a cell phone or any other electronic device while operating a motor vehicle.
· Permit the courts to require the use of an ignition interlock system for a convicted drunk driver to operate a vehicle.
· Ensure state laws conform to federal requirements prohibiting people convicted of a DUI from operating a commercial vehicle.
· Automate claims filing and access to information about work-related health programs, including workers’ comp, temporary disability and prepaid health care.
· Improve access to WC medical services by allowing unions to design and operate WC programs for their members.
· Increase medical reimbursements for doctors and others who treat work-related injuries.
· Allow doctors and other medical service providers to collect payments directly from health insurers rather than the patient.
· Establish a statewide hospital emergency surveillance system for early detection of bioterrorism threats and other public health emergencies.
· Increase insurance coverage limits from $750,000 to $1 million under the Hawaii Hurricane Relief Fund to reflect higher construction costs and property valuations.
· Increase the State Disaster Loan Program amounts to repair residences from $35,000 to $50,000 and businesses from $75,000 to $100,000, setting the interest rate at 1% below the SBA rate to make loans affordable.
· Revamp the disaster loss mitigation program to provide homeowners with a tax credit for installing hurricane protection devices, building a safe room or in-home shelter, covering up to 35% of the cost of improvements.
· Prohibit price gouging and unfair business practices during a declared state disaster.
· Update Hawaii’s 1993 law to ensure communities are properly notified about hazardous spills.
· Increase fines for environmental violations on public lands from $500 to $2,000 per day or $10,000 per violation, and establish a penalty system for violations in state conservation districts.
· Allow the state to remove a grounded vessel by any means necessary to minimize damage to natural resources and ensure safe navigation.

Source: State of Hawaii Governor’s Office

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