Insight, analysis & opinion from Joe Paduda

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Feb
21

The Hawaiian political charade

I received an email from an individual who attended a “hearing” on a workers comp bill in Hawai’i. It’s compelling for two reasons – it clearly illustrates the comp system’s vulnerability to manipulation by those seeking ever-greater profits and ever-lesser oversight, and the weakness and inadequacy of employers’ and insurers’ efforts to prevent that manipulation.
Here’s the perspective of Charlie Donovan – and no, Mr Donovan is not an insurance guy; in fact he works for a group of physicians that serve workers comp claimants.
“I was bothered by the fact that one of the biggest supporters of the [IME] bill, and from my understanding one of the most active participants in fundraising for Senator [Josh] Green [orthopedic surgeon and drug dispensing physician], was not only given the chance to testify, but was called upon again to answer questions in front of the committee.
I was incensed that there were 2 orthopedic surgeons with over 50 years of combined experience treating patients, performing surgery, and conducting IMEs sitting 10 feet in front of Sen. Green who were not given the time of day.
And it seemed so blatantly unfair that an injured worker who had driven in “all the way from Waianae” was given a chance to testify, but that a neurologist with over 30 years of experience who flew in from Maui to give testimony was not afforded the chance to speak.
But when testimony was closed, I looked at my watch and saw that barely 40 minutes had expired since the hearing was gaveled to order. With easily 2 dozen more people anxiously waiting to have their opinions heard, it was over.
Epiphany!!! The entire hearing had been a charade. The members of the committees who graced us with their presence (all 6 of them) were not interested at all in being educated, or in hearing what the “public” had to say. Passage of that bill was a “done deal” before anyone walked into the room, and the hearing was nothing more than an inconvenience for the committee members.
I suppose that I was naïve for thinking that “public testimony” really mattered, that years of experience, statistical data, and the opinions of other professionals would trump fundraising donations. I suppose that somewhere down deep I knew that politics was a dirty business, and that “public service” was a catch-phrase of absolutely no significance. But part of me didn’t want to admit it, until it was rammed down my throat in the most transparent piece of kabuki I have ever seen.
So while facts comes before fundraising in the dictionary, I must now begrudgingly admit something that I probably already knew – that the order is obviously quite different in the world of politics.
Like wandering behind a horse and getting kicked, this is a lesson that will not have to be taught twice.”
What does this mean for you?
Insurers and employers better get real, and fast. You are going to get your heads handed to you if you don’t stop dissembling and focus on these issues.

Workers comp is a very, very soft target for profiteering physicians and the various businesses that have sprung up to suck money out of employers’ premium checks. They are organized, very well-funded, and aggressive.
Meanwhile, insurers and employers are sitting idly by while these bad actors use your dollars to buy political influence.


Joe Paduda is the principal of Health Strategy Associates

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A national consulting firm specializing in managed care for workers’ compensation, group health and auto, and health care cost containment. We serve insurers, employers and health care providers.

 

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