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LETTERS for November 26 issue

By Staff | Nov 25, 2009


The Maui Memorial Medical Center Foundation extends a much appreciated mahalo to the Lahaina News for sharing the story of longtime Lahaina resident Mark Oreck, who bequeathed his estate to our nonprofit 501(c)3 foundation. Thanks to your paper’s editorial about Mark’s gift, many came to support the Mark Oreck Estate Sale in Lahaina on Nov. 7 and 8. Proceeds raised from this two-day sale will be used to purchase state-of-the-art equipment for our community hospital, Maui Memorial Medical Center, in addition to supporting the many educational outreach programs that directly benefit our island families.

Oreck spent 20 years of his life volunteering over 4,844 hours in the Emergency Room department at Maui Memorial Medical Center. He recognized that “life is precious,” and being that Maui was his home, he wanted to ensure continued support of Maui Memorial.

We are very grateful for Mark’s generous gift and for serving as a shining example of how philanthropy impacts the lives of all of us.

ULULANI CORREA, Executive Director, Maui Memorial Medical Center Foundation


In America, more than 30 million people cannot get health care coverage and another 14,000 Americans lose coverage everyday. The 30 million people who don’t have coverage — it isn’t because they simply don’t want it. It’s because they can’t afford it themselves, or jobs won’t/don’t carry them. President Obama is now trying to change this for everyone with or without health care coverage. I personally believe if his health care plan is passed, it will be beneficial to the whole country.

In Obama’s health care address, he mentioned all the copious benefits that everyone would gain from his plan. “It will provide more security and stability to those who have health insurance. It will provide insurance to those who don’t. And it will slow the growth of health care costs for our families, our businesses and our government. It’s a plan that asks everyone to take responsibility for meeting this challenge — not just government and insurance companies, but employers and individuals,” he said.

Furthermore, nothing in the plan proposed will require you to change your coverage or doctor — all it will do is make your insurance work better. The insurance companies WILL NOT be able to drop/deny you coverage due to preexisting conditions. Also, in the plan there is no arbitrary cap. Instead, they will be placing a limit on how much we will be charged out-of-the-pocket.

Insurance companies will be required to cover free routine checkups and preventive care. For those who are currently without insurance, it will be offered with quality and affordable cost. So, if you change jobs, or even lose your job, you will be able to still have insurance. For those who are daring enough to still not get insurance, this plan will require individuals to carry basic health insurance. Also, there will be a hardship waiver for those who still cannot afford the insurance coverage.

All these things considered, I think this plan will hopefully be a viable idea, and soon be something tangible for everyone. This plan will benefit everyone in the long run.



There’s mounting pressure on President Obama and his congressional allies to focus more of their health care reform efforts on cutting down costs. The President recently acknowledged this trend, promising that “the bill I sign must also slow the growth of health care costs in the long run.”

That’s a good goal. Every day, I see how damaging it can be when people who need medical help aren’t able to get it. Lowering health care costs is one of the most effective ways to ensure that Americans can get the care they need. But the best way for reformers to do this has yet to receive serious consideration: bolster the development of new biopharmaceutical drugs.

The treatments and cures generated by this research are proven to save money in the long term by drastically improving patient health, thus reducing the need for expensive medical procedures.

Biologic drugs are the crowning achievement of biotechnology research. Derived from living tissues, biologics are significantly more complex than traditional chemical drugs, and have proven incredibly effective at combating some of the country’s worst diseases.

Take the biologic Herceptin. This drug has quickly become a standard treatment for breast cancer. The survival rate for patients on Herceptin within a year of starting treatment is over 10 percent higher than for those using only chemotherapy — 78 percent versus 67 percent.

Breast cancer patients do have to pay a premium to get Herceptin. But the effect it has on their illness dramatically reduces the chance that they’ll need expensive surgeries or other treatments. And so they’re likely to experience long-term savings that more than make up for their initial drug costs.

Future biologic treatments for prominent diseases could generate huge savings for the health system. Indeed, the Lewin Group estimates that annual Medicare spending would drop by $51 billion within five years of the discovery of a breakthrough biopharmaceutical treatment for Alzheimer’s.

Here in Hawaii, the biopharmaceutical sector is strong. It’s responsible for over 10,200 jobs, and generates $1.2 billion in economic activity annually.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that creating biologics is risky and incredibly expensive. It costs $1.2 billion and takes ten years to develop the average biologic drug. Add to those expenses the $250 to $450 million it costs to build the average biotech manufacturing facility. Then consider that less than a fifth of the drugs that make it to clinical testing ever get approved by the FDA.

And even if a biologic does make it to market, there’s no guarantee it will turn a profit. Of the 30 new biologics to go on sale between 1982 and 1993, 24 will likely never recoup their development costs.

Despite the risks, investors continue to pour money into biopharmaceutical research. That’s largely because the profits from a single successful drug can make it all worthwhile. That financial incentive is what drives biologic innovation. Lawmakers have to protect it.

Fortunately, Congress is in the process of doing just that. It’s considering two bills that give brand-name biologic manufacturers a 12-year “data exclusivity” period. During that time, firms can keep the research data for a new biologic private. After the protection expires, competitors gain access to the information and can use it to create “biosimilars,” which are basically copies of biologic drugs.

Without a sufficiently long data exclusivity period, original biologic manufacturers will have to watch biosimilars flood the market and siphon away customers before they’ve had a chance to make back the huge investment required to make a new drug. Biologic investment would become a losing enterprise, research dollars would dry up and there’d be fewer new drugs.

What’s the right length of data exclusivity? Research from Duke University economist Henry Grabowski shows it takes 12.9 to 16.2 years of sales for a biologic manufacturer to break even on a new drug.

Some lawmakers have accounted for this finding and are pushing legislation that sets biologic data exclusivity at 12 years. Unfortunately, a contingent of congressmen, among them Senators Chuck Schumer and Sherrod Brown, want to reduce that period, likely to seven or nine years.

Hawaii’s representatives should fight against such efforts and push for the 12-year data exclusivity provision to become law. By fostering biopharmaceutical innovation, our state lawmakers can help bring down health care costs and give Americans the power to get proper care when they need it.



The Green Party of Hawaii (GPH) is once again organizing a petition drive to secure a ballot line for state and national offices for the 2010 elections. State law requires political parties to petition the state to appear on the ballot. When voting, people deserve to have as many choices as possible.

Hawaii is one of only five states in the United States that does not allow “write-in” voting. As a result, in most situations, the voter is limited to one of only two individuals, with sometimes very little difference between the two candidates. Thus, it becomes even more important for the GPH to be on the ballot.

The GPH first appeared on the ballot in Hawaii in 1992 and has maintained ballot status for every election since. On the Big Island, where their County Council is elected by a “district” voting system, three members of the GPH have been elected seven times since 1992. On the Mainland, mayors, city council members and three state legislators have been elected when running in partisan races as a member of the Green Party.

Besides write-in voting, another progressive change would be to have “ranked” or “instant run-off” voting, which would allow voters to “rank” their preferences when there does appear more than just two people on the ballot, especially in “primary” races. This would avoid having to feel that one’s vote would not count when voting for a “third” or “alternative” party candidate. This could then allow the possibility of eliminating the primary and holding only a general election in November.

To sign the petition, one needs to be a registered voter in the State of Hawaii and perfectly follow the instructions. The state Office of Elections and the County Clerk’s office reject petitioners who incorrectly fill in their information.    

To find out more about the petition drive, visit the GPH website at www.greenhawaii.org, call me at 572-8787 or e-mail to nikhilananda@hawaiiantel.net.



Thank you for joining us today at the “Keep Samoa in Your Heart Golf Tournament” to raise funds for tsunami relief in Samoa. 

Funds raised will go directly to help support the American Red Cross. All donations are greatly appreciated!

A gracious mahalo goes to all our friends and associates who supported us: Beach Activities Maui, Sheraton Maui Resort, Kaanapali Golf Resort, Marriott Ocean Club, Kapalua Golf Resort, Leilani’s, Mala, Kimo’s, Maui Divers & Surf, Outback Steak House, Honolua Surf, CJ’s Comfort Zone, Royal Lahaina Resort, Mahina, Tia Juana’s, Chief  So‘o Tufaga and and our Samoan family.