Lisa Rantz, the Executive Director of the Hilo Medical Center Foundation and the President of the Hawaii State Rural Health Association, joined us at our last Economic Development Committee meeting on March 9th. It was an open forum with a wide-ranging discussion on the medical issues facing the island and the state. Some of the issues covered are as follows.

  1. We discussed current health care related bills in the state legislature. If you care about the shortage of physicians on the island, please feel free to go to to submit testimony in favor of these bills.
    1. SB1035 – Exempts medical and dental services provided by health care providers to patients who receive Medicaid, Medicare, or TRICARE benefits from the general excise tax.
    1. SB397 – Appropriates funds to increase Medicaid payments to eligible health care providers in the State up to one hundred per cent of the current Medicare fee schedule rates.
    1. SB164 – Appropriates funds to the Department of Health for the Hawaiʻi State Loan Repayment Program for health care professionals.
  2. Hawaii has one of the lowest Medicare reimbursement rates in the nation and Lisa is working with Representative Ed Case, Representative Jill Tokuda, and Senator Brian Schatz to try to increase it.
  3. One of the big issues facing medical service workers is the lack of affordable housing. For example, there is a Physicians Assistant school in Kona, but they need housing for the students. Lisa is working with the Housing Coalition to try and increase workforce housing. Simplifying the building code and making permitting easier would also help.
  4. We discussed creating a welcoming community for the medical workers who move to the island. One of the goals is connecting providers to families in the community with common interests. Lisa is working on a program to do that and I have asked her to share it with the Chamber so we can participate. As previously discussed, a clean, safe, and thriving downtown Hilo would also be a plus. Particular focus is being made on trying to recruit physicians who grew up in the islands back to Hawaii right after residency or those who have been practicing on the mainland as they would be more likely to stay.

There were many more topics to discuss, but we ran out time. Please join us for the next Economic Development Committee meeting on Thursday, April 13 at 12:00.