The legislative session concluded May 3 with the passage of HAH’s top priority state legislation HB 1906, that addresses violence against healthcare workers. The bill now makes its way to the Governor’s office for signature.
Violence against healthcare workers is shockingly prevalent in Hawaii. In 2017, there were 1,175 incidents of assault against workers, and these were just the ones reported in a survey of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii (HAH) members.
HB 1906 is a change in the existing law that already applies to emergency room workers and first responders. The existing law makes it a felony to assault these workers, and HB 1906 extends the protections to other healthcare workers throughout hospitals, as well as to those caring for patients in nursing facilities and home care settings. Expanded protections for healthcare workers will now include physicians, surgeons, APRNs, pharmacists, physician assistants, surgical assistants, nurse aides, respiratory therapists, laboratory technicians, and radiology technicians.
This was a hard-fought win after attempts over several years, and while we were not able to include social workers and security personnel in the legislation, we are very grateful for legislative support in both the House and Senate which resulted in inclusion for the above classes. HAH particularly wants to thank Representatives Aaron Ling Johanson, Scott Nishimoto, John Mizuno, Della Au Belatti, and Senators Rosalyn Baker and Brian Taniguchi for their support of this measure.
The primary goal of this legislation is deterrence, so that the potential for violence is minimized. However, healthcare workers need to know that when willful violence occurs, the charge will be commensurate with the crime. This legislation applies only to those who intentionally or knowingly assault healthcare workers. Individuals with dementia or mental illness are not affected by this bill.
This legislative effort is part of a multi-pronged approach needed to confront this growing national problem, which requires training, community awareness, prevention and legal remedies. HAH will also be assisting its members by helping to train healthcare personnel in de-escalation techniques, and by providing other tools and resources when the potential for violence is observed.
Other Healthcare-Related Bills Pass
Also of note this session, HB 1812 passed its final reading last week and will be transmitted to the governor. This bill clarifies that surrogate decision-makers can act as authorized representatives for the purposes of Medicaid. This is a critical bill to ensure that incapacitated individuals can access public health insurance to pay for the costs of care when it is available. It’s not a perfect solution to our issues involving guardianship and waitlisted patients, but it will help facilities ensure continuity of care.
HB 1911, which gives DOH expanded powers to inspect and take action against unlicensed care homes, also passed the legislature this session. There is a provision that would penalize any healthcare facility that knowingly refers or transfers a patient to an unlicensed care home, but we were able to get amended language offered by members into the final version of the bill. There is also an exception for landlords who rent to individuals who require home health or home care services, as long as the individual is not compelled to purchase these services from the landlord. This legislation also includes a section allowing the Department of Health to issue interim rules on licensing home care agencies in anticipation of hearings on the proposed rule starting on Oahu on May 14th.