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Togiola: Pay remaining 1st quarter subsidy to LBJ

fili@samoanews.com

Due to further improvement in ASG’s revenue collections, Gov. Togiola Tulafono says he has directed the Treasury Department to pay the remainder of the ASG subsidy to the LBJ Medical Center for the first quarter of fiscal year 2012.

The governor made the statement on his weekend radio program where he expressed his gratitude to the U.S. Congress for passage of federal appropriations for the Interior Department, and to President Barack Obama for approval of the measure that provides much needed revenue for the hospital. Said Togiola, it “now changes a lot of things as it relates to the proposed fee hike” by the hospital.

Congressman Faleomavaega Eni announced last Thursday that Congress has approved funding for the U.S. Department of Interior which includes more than $22.7 million for ASG operations. Of this amount, $7.6 million is for LBJ Hospital operations. DOI had been operating under a continuing resolution until its appropriation was approved.

On his radio program, the governor said a “good $7 million” of the projected shortfall in FY 2012 for the hospital was because of the uncertainty of approval of DOI’s appropriation, but now it’s in place and a good part of that projected shortfall is mitigated with this federal money, which can be drawn down by LBJ when it comes due.

The governor also announced that “as we look into this matter, the deputy treasurer has reported that they have been successful in their collection in the later part of November and December, [and] ASG is now able to pay the full allocation for the first quarter of FY 2012.”

It was a “combination of things” that caused the delay of the proposed rate hike that was due to go into effect on Dec. 24, he noted.

“Better yet, we now have breathing room to look at a solution, more time to look ahead and discuss further potential solutions for long term for our medical center,” he said.

The hospital announced last week that it was delaying the rate hike to Jan. 14 to give the Fono and the governor more time to come up with a financial package to help the hospital.

Once the Fono is in session, “we must have immediate consideration and approval of a supplemental appropriation of at least $4 million to allow us to pay all of those who have extended us credit,” LBJ board chairman Moananu Va said in a statement. “We also must have a commitment from the Fono to find workable, sustainable, reliable revenue streams for the long term stability of the Medical Center.”

On his radio program, Togiola said, “we’re glad to say that we don’t have to call a special session of the Legislature” and “we can afford to wait until the opening of the Legislature... on Jan. 9.”

“Between now and then we will continue to discuss with the Fono leadership... and members several proposals now being funneled through my office, in an effort to try and assist with the funding of the medical center going forward,” he said and told listeners to praise God for His continued love and care for American Samoa.

OFF-ISLAND REFERRAL PROGRAM

Togiola said one of the issues he has discussed with Fono leaders is allocating a large amount for the off-island medical referral program, which has faced in the last four years a shortage of funds to send patients off-island.

He said he has also asked if this money could be used by the hospital as matching funds for Medicaid, saying that if it can be done, it would mean an increase in Medicaid money. The governor is awaiting a reply from LBJ.

LBJ chief executive officer Michael Gerstenberger told a House hearing this month that hospital patients in the territory needing off island medical care will have to pay their own expenses, or use their insurance because LBJ does not have money for the referral program for the current fiscal year.

 Gerstenberger also said there were 95 cases approved by the medical referral committee in FY 2011, with a budget of $1.5 million, and this money was expended for eleven patients, whose treatment was “very expensive” — exhausting the entire budget for the program during the early part of the fiscal year.



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