Medical & Financial Issues
July 8, 2008
The hospital/medical/doctor thing on the big Island is getting worse from day to day, so you may want to include this heads-up into your dreams of relocating here.
Since we have heard so many stories about how there is not one physician here who will accept new patients, and since you must have a primary care physician to qualify for just about any medial insurance program, that leaves Kaiser Permanente.
Kaiser is about your only alternative right now unless you are lucky enough to find yourselves a doc who will at least agree to be that primary care physician should you ever need one. Kaiser keeps getting more and more people signing on because of the situation here, and at the same time, we keep reading in the paper that they are doing more and more staff reductions to save themselves money. The downscaling of service is very apparent, too.
If you would like to know more about Kaiser Permanente, google "kaiser permanente issues." Scary stuff.
In my book and in some of my updates I mentioned that the Kamuela/Waimea Hospital is the best facility on the Island. A few days ago we read that even they are laying off 64 people because of necessary budget cuts. Probably once week there's an article in the paper about the hospital-medical-doctor thing here. Our esteemed Governor Linda Lingle just vetoed a bill that would have allowed some work on the issues that are keeping new doctors away and sending the ones we have back to the Mainland.
The general consensus is that this is a huge problem, it's getting worse, and there will be no solutions any time soon.
Right now the only solution is to stay well.
Want some more doom and gloom? I thought so! OK, housing prices are still dropping, which is good news for anyone looking for real estate. It is getting more and more difficult to get a mortgage, however, and contrary to what we continually get from the media, interest rates are not coming down. Maybe they're coming down to the lenders, but now the lenders raise the base rates a point here and a half a point there for every little detail until the end result is a rate higher than it was a year ago. To qualify for a mortgage, you best have at least a 25% down payment, the house better appraise for more than the asking price, you will need at least a 720 credit score, and the stars need to be aligned in your favor.
And that's the good news. House prices may be coming down, but prices on everything else are going up at such a rate that it is evident daily. Groceries, household goods, building material . . . all going up on a daily basis. Every time we go grocery shopping the prices are a bit more than the last time. The daily bits add up to some significant numbers over a few months.
Of course, everyone likes to blame it all on fuel prices. NOT! When Safeway sends a container of goods over here from the West Coast, the cost of fuel, even if doubled, when divided among the thousands of items in the container would be insignificant. Another example is this: I need a specific power tool that Home Depot sells for $370. I can buy the same item online from any number of sellers for $290 and the cost of shipping it is $26. Yet the Home Depot salesperson insists that the price difference is "shipping costs," and that the new higher cost is because of increased fuel price. I think not. I believe that the main reason for the escalating costs of everything here is that those in charge know they have a captive audience (us) and a scapegoat to blame it on (fuel prices.)
The new airline mess is another example. We lost both Aloha Airlines and ATA at the same time, and they were the only carriers with direct flights in and out of Hilo. There seems to be no interest in replacing this service, even though the airplanes ran full most of the time. What's up with that? At the same time those two airlines went bust, fares to and from Hawaii doubled in and some cases tripled. They blame that on fuel cost, too. Really? How come you can fly from the West Coast to Florida or New York for $400 R/T and they want a $900 and up from The West Coast to Hawaii, a shorter distance? How come I can fly from SF or LA to New Zealand or even to Europe cheaper than to Hawaii? How come you can fly from SF to LA for under $100 and it costs more to fly inter-island now?
It feels like there's something creepy going on that us common folk don't know about, and it has already seriously hurt the tourist-related industry here in Hawaii. The fallout is everywhere and affects everyone.
Our kids can no longer come for visits. We can no longer go over there. We, like so many others, simply cannot afford it now. The bottom line is that if you have family on the Mainland and is important to you to see them often, these things need to be factored into your plans now. Only a few short months ago none of this was an issue, but now it has become one.
Sorry I don't have any good news in these areas, but such is life. We can only hope that the situations are temporary.
Please Live Aloha!
Mahalo for "listening."
Skip Thomsen & Ohana
Updated 7/8/08