HAWAII: New year brings Hawaii civil unions, updated insurance consumer protection laws
Posted on 29 December, 2011
HONOLULU—The 2012 New Year will ring in several new State measures, including Hawaii’s civil unions law. Other measures include a law that provides workplace protections for domestic or sexual violence victims, a law that allows for anonymous filings in a court of law, as well as several new insurance provisions. Senate Bill 232 establishes Hawaii a process for partners to enter into civil unions. The purpose of Senate Bill 232 is to “statutorily establish civil unions in Hawaii, and in so doing provide partners to a civil union the same rights, benefits, and responsibilities granted under chapter 572, Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS).” The intent of the bill is not to revise the definition or eligibility requirements of marriage under chapter 572, HRS. In Hawaii, marriage is defined as being “only between a man and a woman.” Senate Bill 229 makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate an employee because of the employee’s domestic or sexual violence victim status if the employee provides notice. The new law also requires an employer to make reasonable accommodations in the workplace for an employee who is a victim of domestic or sexual violence as well as authorizes an employer to verify the victim’s status. Senate Bill 1278 aims to protect consumers, particularly seniors, from abusive financial services practices by adopting model regulations of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. The law also enables the Insurance Division of the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs to apply for federal grants to fund activities that protect seniors from misleading or fraudulent marketing in the sale of financial products. Senate Bill 1274 updates Hawaii’s Patients’ Bill of Rights and Responsibilities Act to conform to the requirements of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 and ensure a revised external review process, which examines adverse decisions by insurers. Hawaii lawmakers called the current external review system “broken.” Senate Bill 946 allows, under certain circumstances, legal parties to proceed as “Jane Doe” or “John Doe.” Determining factors include the reasonableness of the petitioner’s fears, risk of prejudice to the other party, and the impact on the public interest. To see a list compiled by the House Majority public relations office describing all of the new laws taking effect in 2012, click here and here.