Poepoe introduces bill to provide transportation for medically underserved
For residents booking off-island travel from rural areas such as Molokai and Lāna‘i, unreliable air transportation can be more than an inconvenience. It can be a serious health concern when vital medical care is needed on Oʻahu or Maui.
“Delays and flight changes mean patients miss long-awaited appointments and medical care, including chemotherapy, surgical procedures and dental treatments. Rescheduling may take weeks or sometimes months, potentially turning a routine appointment into a medical emergency,” said House District 13 Rep. Mahina Poepoe, whose far-flung district includes Molokai, Lāna’i and East Maui.
Poepoe has introduced House Bill 2544, which provides dependable non-emergency medical transportation for residents of medically underserved rural communities. The measure makes available chartered flights to seat patients, as well as health care providers.
As rural communities, Molokai and Lāna’i are medically underserved, and residents are routinely referred to providers on Maui or O‘ahu for health care. Many times, these missed appointments are with busy specialists who are in great demand, Poepoe said in a release. Often, patients must book a flight the day before the appointment and stay in a hotel overnight to ensure they arrive on time.
“This is not only costly but challenging, particularly for our kūpuna and those with caregivers,” according to Poepoe’s release.
“We are proposing not only chartered seats for patients, but transportation for health care providers who visit rural communities for the day,” she said. “The planes going to Molokaʻi or Lāna’i from O‘ahu or Maui could transport providers early in the morning, with their return at the end of the day. This provides transportation for needed professionals as well as patients on a round-trip basis.” Payment or reimbursement for this pilot project would primarily be from insurers and medical providers.
House Bill 2544 will be heard in a joint hearing by the House Committees on Health & Homelessness and Human Services at 8:30 a.m. Friday in Room 329 at the State Capitol. The meeting agenda can be found at https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/sessions/session2024/HearingNotices/HEARING_HLT-HUS_02-09-24_.HTM
Testifiers can sign up at https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/account/login.aspx?return=/account/submittestimony.aspx?
For more information, Poepoe’s office at 808-586-6790. Or email [email protected].