Lawmakers hope for bi-partisan support of tort reform - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Lawmakers hope for bi-partisan support of tort reform

Joe Harding Joe Harding
Dr. John Bellatti Dr. John Bellatti
Sen. Josh Green Sen. Josh Green
Rep. Kymberly Pine Rep. Kymberly Pine

By Leland Kim - bio | email

HAWAII STATE CAPITOL (KHNL) - A group of Hawaii lawmakers hopes to find a solution to the doctor shortage in our state. They met with physicians and a group called "Save Our Doctors" at the capitol Thursday afternoon.

They realize it's an uphill battle to get any sort of tort reform passed this session, but they hope to form a bi-partisan coalition to reach a compromise.

Members of "Save Our Doctors" are trying to do just that at the state Capitol. Joe Harding came to listen and learn, because he needs acute medical care.

"I've got both hips replaced, a knee replaced," said Harding, who has suffered orthopedic problems since he was involved in a car accident in 1961. "I've got metal shims in my neck and lower back."

His orthopedic surgeon closed up shop and left for the mainland.

"He couldn't do it," said Harding. "He couldn't make ends meet with what he was getting."

Dr. John Bellatti, an orthopedic surgeon from the Big Island, stopped practicing on the Kona side late last year. He says low reimbursements and the high cost of doing business forced him to stop at the end of December.

"And we've simply been turned down more and more on reimbursement until suddenly doctors are starting to leave," said Dr. Bellatti.

State Sen. Josh Green, D-West Hawaii, also a physician, led an unsuccessful effort last year to pass a tort reform bill. He plans to try again, and reach out to Democrats and Republicans.

"I think it's important," said Sen. Green. "I'm going to work with my colleagues to form consensus to pass a bill."

"When you have doctors leaving at such a high rate, it means we don't have access to care anymore and the right kind of care," added Rep. Kymberly Pine, R-Ewa Beach, Iroquois Point.

That's exactly what's happened to Harding.

"I still keep up with some ailments that I can't get rid of, can't find the right surgeon," he said.

This is why Sen. Green wants to build a broad coalition to find a compromise.

"I will work with every lawyer, with every nurse, with every educator to pass this bill because it's for people," said Sen. Green. "It's not about doctors versus lawyers."

Building a bridge to rescue our shaky healthcare system.

The new legislative session starts Wednesday of next week. Both Sen. Green and Rep. Pine say getting a handle on tort reform and reimbursement rates would help bring doctors back to Hawaii.

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