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Dear Editor,

Recently heard on the radio, LBJ’s new CEO comments about what he interprets as a conflict or contradiction in our local laws pertaining to the provision of health care for our people.

The conflict, according to LBJ’s CEO, derives out of a disparity between an old cumbersome “statute” (dating back to the original partitioning of our islands by foreigners) pronouncing “free health care” for our people and a recent more pragmatic law.

The recent law – recognizing the normal progression in health care costs – provides the LBJ management with a much needed discretionary authority to “charge reasonable fees” for services rendered.

With all due respect and contrary to the CEO’s view, the presumed conflict is but a mythical tempest – more commonly referred to in street lingo as a “cop-out”. And although difficult for outsiders to recognize, the reality should be stated unambiguously that our people have progressed to a level of intellectual maturity and ‘sophistication’ to understand that in this day and age of computer technology and high quality health care services — there simply is no such thing as “free health care” any more (if it ever existed).

However, there is an inherent caution that accompanies a keen awareness of the ever-existing socio-economic reality of our people – that nearly 70% still live below the (Federal) poverty level.

Unfortunately, it is this reality that is too often forgotten or completely ignored by those who make the laws and those put in charge of running critical government services.

If the LBJ CEO must know – the numerous “300%” fee increases now proposed at the hospital far exceed what those who wrote the law foresaw as “reasonable”.

And not to beat Watson’s dead horse to a pulp, but imagine on your return trip home you discover that the initial $1500 round trip from Pago to Honolulu is suddenly increased to $6000?

That would be quite a “contradiction” and obviously, “unreasonable” would be too nice a word to describe such an abnormality. But that should give one some idea of what a $750.00 dialysis fee feels like to many of us at the poverty level – scraping to feed families and keep the lights on.

I sincerely wish the CEO well, and hope that he will do his best work yet — finding “reasonable” solutions—for our people.

H. Chief Gi Malala