$17M Will Not Be Distributed to Hawaii Doctors

HONOLULU (KHNL) -- The Hawaii Department of Human Services confirms $17 million allocated to Hawaii doctors for taking care of lower-income patients will not be distributed. The Hawaii legislature passed Act 284 during the 2007 legislative session, which appropriated $8 million to reimburse physicians who take care of Medicaid patients.

The Department of Human Services says that money for fiscal year 2007 won't be distributed and instead stays in the treasury, but doctors say they need it to take care of Hawaii's neediest patients.

Dr. Gregory Yim takes care of kids who have neurological issues. About 90 percent of his chronic patients are on Medicaid, a program that helps lower-income patients.

"Taking care of these fragile patients that require Medicaid is my passion," he said.

But the cost of taking care of these patients is higher than the reimbursements. That's why lawmakers passed Act 284 last year.

"The money is necessary because we often times need tests," said Dr. Yim. "For example, MRI's for these kids to actually help them with treatment, and prognosis. So we need the money to do the diagnostic tests, and the tests are expensive."

Expensive and time consuming.

"The average non-Medicaid patient, we can get approvals in a day to three days," said Shirley Yim, Dr. Yim's office manager. "With Medicaid patients, normally if it's not an emergent situation, it takes about three to four weeks."

The federal government matches the state's $8 million, so we're looking at about $17 million. But that money will not be distributed.

"So it's not like a law that says you have to do this, it's not like changing the law," said Lillian Koller, the director of the Department of Human Services. "It's an appropriation that if you can do it, do it, and it's the governor's call to release it or not."

So the state money goes back to the treasury, and the federal money sits, still allocated for Hawaii. But Hawaii physicians hope the governor has a change of heart.

"If we can all work together to help these kids with special needs, I think we'll all be a better place and we all need to remember these little ones need our help," said Dr. Yim.

Medicaid funding for next will go up dramatically, almost a hundred percent from $41 million to $80 million. That's to account for inflation.