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Health data-sharing bill dies after widespread provider opposition


The state House deferred a bill that would establish a health data exchange framework after widespread opposition from health care providers.

The bill sought to advance the state's ability to exchange patient health information electronically between providers. This "interoperability" can help to improve health outcomes and reduce health care costs for patients.

The state Department of Health submitted testimony in support of House Bill 517.

So did HMSA, the state’s largest health insurance provider. It said the proposal would advance health equity and was "essential to improve outcomes, identify Hawaii’s unique social risk factors, and lower administrative, financial, and technical burdens."

But the Healthcare Association of Hawaii, Hawaiʻi Pacific Health, The Queen’s Health System, Kaiser Permanente, and several small providers all raised concerns that the measure was counterproductive.

They worried it could potentially conflict with emerging federal data-sharing requirements. They also said it may duplicate similar efforts by the existing Hawaiʻi Health Information Exchange.

Hilton Raethel of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii said that while the data-sharing is "laudable," the bill could create an "unfunded mandate" that burdened the health care industry.

"There is no clarity regarding the costs involved, what other resources are needed, and a source of any funding to implement this exchange," Raethel said.

Hawaiʻi Pacific Health also raised concerns about costs in its written testimony, stating that "in California, funding in the amount of $250 million was needed to support a similar data exchange platform."

Jennifer Diesman is the Senior Vice President of Government Policy and Advocacy with HMSA. When providing testimony in front of the House Committee on Commerce and Consumer Protection, Diesman said the measure was "ahead of its time."

"Unfortunately, I think we're not ready for this. HMSA very much supports health care data-sharing across the entire ecosystem," Diesman said.

She also expressed hope to see similar legislation pass next year.

Savannah Harriman-Pote is the energy and climate change reporter. She is also the lead producer of HPR's "This Is Our Hawaiʻi" podcast. Contact her at sharrimanpote@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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