Hawaii Bill Promotes Zero-Emission Travel Between Islands | Hawaii News


By AUDREY McAVOY, Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii lawmakers this year passed legislation creating a working group to develop ways to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions on transportation between the islands.

Sen. Chris Lee said at a news conference on Thursday that Hawaii has some of the highest transportation costs in the nation because of its dependence on imported fossil fuels. Shifting to cleaner energy sources could help lower those costs, he said.

The bill, SB 3311, establishes a zero emissions goal for all Hawaii transportation in general. It doesn’t set a deadline, but Lee said the measure would help Hawaii reach a pre-existing target to become carbon neutral by 2045.

The interisland transportation working group would include representatives of the airline and cruise ship industries and Honolulu harbor users. Each county would have a seat, along with the state director of transportation and the state’s chief energy officer.

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The measure creates another working group to make sure Hawaii has enough electric vehicle chargers.

Jodi Leong, a spokesperson for Gov. David Ige, said he supports the intent of the bill but is waiting for a legal, policy and departmental review to be finished before signing the measure.

Hawaii is already requiring electric utilities to use renewable energy for 100% of their electricity by 2045.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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Travel Time Factored Into Atchafalaya Bridge Bill


It should take you 18 minutes to get across the Atchafalaya Bridge and not a minute less!

Senate President Page Cortex has done the math. The 18 mile long bridge, with a speed limit of 60 mph, should take drivers no less than 18 minutes to get across. If you make it across in under 18 minutes, you could be expecting something in the mail.

Louisiana lawmakers are cracking down on speeding on the Atchafalaya bridge, and it seems radar guns and speed cameras won’t be enough to slow drivers down. Cortez’s bill means that drivers who cross the bridge in under 18 minutes could receive a speeding ticket in the mail based on how quickly they made it from one end of the bridge to the other.

About two weeks ago, Cortez’s bill made it through the Senate Transportation Committee, but it still has to be advanced through Senate Committee – Finance due to the cost of putting up additional speed limit signs and cameras.

Cortez stated that “In a perfect world, we hope we lose money on it because everybody is going the speed limit and there are no accidents…”
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Martin Lewis: Mum slashes monthly heating bill by more than half with handy tip


Energy bills are on the rise and many people will be looking at ways that the can lower them.

Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis says his top tip is to resist the temptation to leave your heating on a low temperature all day.

He said: “According to experts at the Energy Saving Trust , the idea it’s cheaper to leave the heating on low all day is a myth.

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“They’re clear that having the heating on only when you need it is, in the long run, the best way to save energy, and therefore money.

“A timer’s best as your thermostat turns your heating on and off to keep your home at the temperature you set.

“The key thing to understand here is that it’s all about the total amount of energy required to heat your home.

“It’s a given that a certain amount of energy is constantly leaking out of your home (how much will depend on how good your insulation is).

“The Energy Saving Trust says if you’re keeping the heating on all day you’re losing energy all day, so it’s better to heat your home only when you need it.”

Earlier this week Manchester Evening News asked readers for their own money saving tips.

Responding, Carolann Culshaw explained how she slashed her heating bill in half by making the simple change suggested by Martin.

Instead of leaving her heating on a constant low heat, she turns it on as and when she needs it – and she’s managed to decrease her monthly bill from £95 to £12.

She explained: “I stopped having my heating on a constant 18c temp and boosting it every now and then and just turned it off completely and only turn it on as and when needed.

“Dec and Jan bills were over £90 for Gas alone. Since turning heating off fully my bill in Feb was only around £45 so saved half the price.

“So far this month my bill is £12.

“As the weather gets warmer I won’t be needing the heating on at all but some people say having the house a certain temp all the time (which is normally around 18c) can save you money.

“In my experience so far it made my bill double what I would have been using.”

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Local students begin traveling to Tallahassee for protest against ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill


On Sunday night, dozens of high school and college students began a journey to Tallahassee to join a rally in front of the Florida Capitol.

On Sunday night, dozens of high school and college students began a journey to Tallahassee to join a rally in front of the Florida Capitol to rally against HB 1557, the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

The bill has one final stop early this week before being sent to the desk of Gov. Ron DeSantis, which is the State Senate floor.

Miami Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava met students as they boarded a bus.




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How Biden infrastructure bill addresses increase in traffic fatalities


After experiencing record traffic fatalities during the pandemic, states in the West and across the country have access to billions of dollars from roadway safety programs through new federal infrastructure funding.

States and localities can tap into $15 billion in formula funding to improve road safety as part of the Transportation Department’s strategy to stem record increases in road fatalities through its “safe system” approach, which “promotes better road design, lower speed limits and more car safety regulations,” according to The Associated Press.

Several states in the West are among those that have experienced rising traffic fatalities. A recent analysis by insurance website thezebra.com of federal data on roadway deaths identified the nation’s 10 most dangerous highways. Five are in the West, and three of those pass through Utah.

TheZebra.com

The Zebra analysis found Wyoming, New Mexico and South Carolina had the most vehicular crashes per 100,000 people.

In Utah, last year was the deadliest since 2002 on state and local roads. Washington state and New Mexico also recorded record increases in traffic and pedestrian deaths, according to a pair of reports in The New York Times published shortly after the release of the Biden administration’s safety guidelines. A Times analysis of federal data showed 17.5% from the summer of 2019 to last summer was the largest two-year increase since just after World War II.

And traffic fatalities have also captured recent headlines in Nevada, where a man driving 65 mph over the limit slammed into a minivan, killing himself and eight others in North Las Vegas. It was reportedly the deadliest crash on Nevada roadways in at least three decades.

Speeding is leading cause of traffic deaths. More than 1 in 4 traffic fatalities occur in speed-related crashes, the AP reported, citing government data.

And the government is urging states to consider spending share of their federal money on speed cameras as a proven enforcement tool against hazardous driving.

“Automated speed enforcement, if deployed equitably and applied appropriately to roads with the greatest risk of harm due to speeding, can provide significant safety benefits and save lives,” according to the Transportation Department’s safety strategy released last week.

But the technology is not popular. Only 16 states — Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Washington — and the District of Columbia currently have speed camera programs in place, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Six states — Maine, Mississippi, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia —prohibit both red-light and speed cameras. Montana and South Dakota prohibit red-light cameras, and New Jersey and Wisconsin do not allow speed cameras. Nevada prohibits the use of cameras unless operated by an officer or installed in a law enforcement vehicle or facility.

The conference also noted that opponents have challenged the constitutionality of automated enforcement laws in many jurisdictions. Missouri’s Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that red-light and speed cameras were unconstitutional.

In the 1990s, Utah’s Legislature banned the use of what was then dubbed “PhotoCop” that caught driver’s running red lights. An attempt by city leaders to repeal the ban in 2005 never made it out of committee.

While local leaders, law enforcement and some residents argued at the time that the technology would save lives, opponents won the day by framing the issue around personal liberty.

“This country was founded on freedom and liberty, this country was not founded for safety or security,” testified Salt Lake resident Dalane England. “People are going to die if we drive automobiles.”

Those arguments may surface again as states and localities decide how they want to use their share of funding set aside for road safety measures. The AP reported that states have the option to use up to 10% of the $15.6 billion in total highway safety money available over five years for specified noninfrastructure programs, such as public awareness campaigns, automated enforcement of traffic safety laws and measures to protect children walking and bicycling to school.

Federal guidance also requires at least 15% of a state’s highway safety improvement program funding targets pedestrians, bicyclists and other nonmotorized road users if those groups make up 15% or more of the state’s crash fatalities.

And the issue is already becoming politicized.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis criticized Biden’s infrastructure bill at a recent press event, singling out speed cameras as an example of unwanted waste.

“Like we need more surveillance in our society right now,” he said.



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Ontario family forced to pay $32,900 bill because of travel insurance confusion


An Ontario couple said they were shocked after learning they’re on the hook for a $32,900 air ambulance bill because of confusion surrounding their travel insurance.

“I’m so disappointed. I’m broken and sad,” Maple, Ont. woman Freda Burton told CTV News Toronto.

Freda’s husband, Vashni Burton, went to Jamaica in December of 2020 for a prolonged stay. While he was there in August 2021, he suffered a stroke and Freda flew down to be by his side.

Concerned for his care, they decided fly him home from Jamaica to Vaughan by air ambulance because they though they had travel coverage through an insurance plan. 

The cost was almost $33,000 and they thought they would be reimbursed when they got home. 

After Vashni Burton was flown home, the couple submitted the bill to their travel insurance company, but they were told they did not have the coverage to pay for the air ambulance. 

Freda Burton was told her plan allowed for travel coverage for 30 days, but that her husband had been in Jamaica for more than eight months.

“They only cover for the first thirty days. They didn’t cover him because he was in Jamaica for such a long period, they don’t cover that,” Freda Burton said. 

Martin Firestone, the president of Travel Secure Inc., said there are common misconceptions when it comes to some insurance plans that offer coverage for travel. 

Airplane

Firestone said many group insurance plans offer travel insurance, but they may be capped at 30 days of coverage. After that a person would have to return home, but once they get home they could leave on another trip and once again have another 30 days of coverage. 

However, Firestone said if you’re out of country for more than 30 days at a time, you can purchase additional insurance.

“If you don’t purchase additional insurance and you are (out of the country) on day 30 or 31 without coverage, that’s a pretty scary thought, because if there is a claim it will not be paid,” said Firestone.

Firestone advises everyone to triple check insurance coverage before taking a trip. 

Burton thought she did have insurance and was unaware of the 30 day limit and is still hopeful a portion of the air ambulance bill can be reimbursed. 

Firestone says many of his clients are deciding to travel again and he says many insurance polices do allow for COVID-19 coverage, but plans can have differences and limitations so make sure you know what’s covered and what’s not, before you go. 





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This woman got charged $10,000 for a 1-mile cab ride in S.F. When she disputed the bill, things got even more outrageous


One evening this past September, Margarita Bekker and husband Chris Schlesinger hopped into a San Francisco taxi. Their 1.1-mile Yellow Cab ride to a rooftop birthday dinner took 11 minutes.

Bekker paid via credit card using the driver’s PayPal terminal after the cab’s built-in device couldn’t read her card. The meter showed a $7.90 fare and she added a 25% tip for a total of $9.87. The driver said she’d be emailed a receipt, which never happened.

A few days later, her credit card bill arrived. She was astounded to see that she’d been charged a whopping $9,875 for that short trip — 1,000 times more than it actually cost.

It seemed like an obvious mistake: that the driver must have entered extra digits, either accidentally or deliberately. She called Bank of America, her credit card issuer, to report fraud. Eventually the bank said it wasn’t fraud since she had proffered her credit card herself, and she must file a billing dispute, which she did.

“After reviewing the documentation, we found that the amount you were billed was calculated correctly,” the bank said in a letter reviewed by The Chronicle.

In other words, she was on the hook for $9,875.

For Bekker, 51, a Russian immigrant who does medical interpreting at a local hospital, $10,000 is the equivalent of three months of rent and utilities for her Redwood City house.

Margarita Bekker and husband Chris Schlesinger took a 1.1-mile cab ride from the Powell BART Station to a restaurant for his birthday dinner in September and got charged almost $10,000.

Margarita Bekker and husband Chris Schlesinger took a 1.1-mile cab ride from the Powell BART Station to a restaurant for his birthday dinner in September and got charged almost $10,000.

Lance Yamamoto/Special to The Chronicle

“It will be like all my savings essentially,” she said. “I will have no cushion left of any kind.”





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Congressman Webster introduces bill to ban vaccine passports for travel


Congressman Daniel Webster has introduced the SAFER Travel Act, H.R. 6257, to ban federal vaccine passports and quarantine requirements for travel.

“President Biden, his administration and Democrats in Congress are out of control as they continue to push more mandates and restrictions on the American people,” said Rep. Webster, who serves on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “This is not about science or public health; this is fearmongering to maintain control and it has to stop. This bill protects the privacy and personal freedoms of American citizens to make healthcare decisions in consultation with their doctor – not because of demands by Washington politicians or bureaucrats. I will continue to work with my colleagues to defend the freedoms of the American people.”

People of all ages joined in the Villagers for Trump mandatory vaccine protest Wednesday at Lake Sumter Landing
People of all ages joined in a Villagers for Trump mandatory vaccine protest this summer at Lake Sumter Landing.

Webster is a Republican who represents The Villages in the U.S. House of Representatives. The measure is co-sponsored by Congressman Sam Graves, a Republican from Missouri.

“You shouldn’t need a vaccine passport to get on a train, board a plane, or travel home for the holidays,” said Graves, ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “This bill would put that terrible idea to bed once and for all. The vaccines have proven to be the safest and most effective tool we have against preventing COVID-19, but the federal government has no business mandating them for travel, work, or anything else. It’s a personal decision and it needs to stay that way.”

H.R. 6257 would prohibit COVID-19 vaccine mandates or quarantine requirements on Americans for the purposes of travel. The science and data are clear, the vast majority of Americans have received a COVID-19 vaccine or have natural immunity from previous infection. Those vaccinated can contract and spread COVID-19 making mandates “completely nonsensical.”

Webster has co-sponsored legislation prohibiting President Biden’s COVID-19 mandate on private businesses, federal contractors and those who provide Medicare and Medicaid services.



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Stranded in the pandemic, his travel insurance failed to cover $38,000 medical bill – Daily News


By Arthur Allen | Kaiser Health News

Duy Hoa Tran, a retired Vietnamese schoolteacher, arrived in Los Angeles in February 2020 to visit his daughter and 2-month-old grandson. Two weeks later, the door closed behind him. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, Vietnam shut its borders. No commercial flights would be allowed into the country for the next 18 months.

Tran’s daughter, An Tran, who has a doctorate in business administration and teaches marketing at the University of La Verne, did what she thought was necessary to ensure medical coverage for her then-65-year-old father during the pandemic. But the only option for a visitor on a tourist visa was travel insurance. In early March 2020, An Tran found and purchased a policy, for about $350 a month, from a company called Seven Corners.

She might as well not have bothered.

The elder Tran had been staying at An’s home in Diamond Bar about a year when he told his daughter he was having trouble seeing out of his right eye. A visit to an ophthalmologist produced a solemn verdict: Tran had severe glaucoma and would quickly go blind unless he got surgery.

Seven Corners gave written preapproval for the procedures recommended by Dr. Brian Chen. To be safe, An Tran called the insurer “many times” to confirm it would cover the expense, but no one she spoke with would give her a definitive answer, she said. Chen, however, assured An that insurance companies typically covered the treatment, which was pretty routine.

On April 19, Tran underwent the first of three eye surgeries to resolve the glaucoma. The surgeries — the last was on July 19 — were successful. And then on Aug. 5, Seven Corners sent An Tran a denial of service letter.

The company’s policy excluded coverage for any “preexisting condition,” by which it meant any condition “whether or not previously manifested, symptomatic, known, diagnosed, treated or disclosed,” the letter said.

Soon after her father’s eye surgeries, An Tran, of Diamond Bar, California, found out that travel insurance typically offers little protection for any health problem linked to a preexisting condition. (Heidi de Marco/KHN)

An Tran and her father were on the hook for nearly $38,000 in medical bills, although Seven Corners had preauthorized the surgery and she had paid around $6,000 for the insurance over the previous year and a half.

As for the bill, “my dad obviously can’t pay it,” Tran said. His $260 monthly pension from the Vietnamese government isn’t enough for him to live on in Vietnam, she said.

The surgical procedures Duy Hoa Tran received are quite routine in the United States, said Dr. Davinder Grover, an ophthalmologist in the Dallas area and clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Medicare would generally pay about a quarter of the $37,896.83 Tran was billed for the surgeries, Grover said. If Tran’s daughter had known beforehand that insurance wouldn’t cover the procedures, the physician’s practice might have been willing to charge something like $12,000, he said.

The policy An Tran purchased had no deductible and offered coverage of up to $100,000 in medical bills, including COVID care. But travel insurance generally covers only emergency or urgent medical expenses, according to the California state insurance commission, which regulates policies in the state.

Megan Moncrief, chief marketing officer for Squaremouth, which aggregates various companies’ travel insurance plans — including some from Seven Corners — and offers them through its website, said the policy language was not unusual for travel insurance. She noted the policy’s stipulation that it covered some acute conditions only if the patient sought treatment within 24 hours of the initial symptoms.

Moncrief said the fact that Tran did not seek treatment immediately may be the reason his surgeries weren’t covered. (Seven Corners refused all comment on the case.) She acknowledged it was hardly surprising he hadn’t dashed to the doctor at the first sign of discomfort: “I don’t know that I would have done that either, if I just had blurry vision.”

As for Seven Corners’ refusal to pay despite precertification, this is not uncommon, she said. By precertifying, the insurer verifies that a procedure is a covered benefit but doesn’t guarantee the insurer will cover it for that particular patient.

Travel insurance typically offers little protection for any health problem linked to a preexisting condition, regardless of whether that condition has ever been diagnosed, says Susan Yates, general manager in the U.S. for Falck Global Assistance, an international insurer.

“For visitors to the U.S., especially those who are not permanent residents or citizens, it can be difficult to obtain health insurance,” she said. The Affordable Care Act doesn’t cover tourists, though some resident noncitizens can buy coverage.

“It’s usually better for a visitor to buy travel insurance from their country of origin, but in some countries (Vietnam being one), the insurance market is not developed,” Yates wrote in an email.

Tran had tried unsuccessfully for months to fly home to his town near Ho Chi Minh City, where his wife lives with another grandchild. On 14 occasions, An bought him tickets on regular commercial flights that were subsequently canceled. He was also unable to get a seat on charter flights arranged by the Vietnamese government; those tickets generally were available only through third parties charging up to $10,000.

The eye surgeon, Chen, offered to discuss the case with KHN, but his medical group’s counsel said it had a policy against discussing insurance issues with reporters, even with the patient’s consent.

After KHN approached him to discuss the issue, Chen told An Tran that he was waiving his $8,144 fee for the surgeries. The Acuity Eye Group, where he practices, would not immediately confirm Chen’s offer, but told An Tran they were seeking approvals to waive his fee and all other charges as well.

On Sept. 15, Duy Hoa Tran finally managed to get on a charter flight back to Vietnam. He’s happy to be home, An Tran said.

Under California’s filial responsibility laws, she could be liable for his remaining bills.

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.



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