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HAL renews partnership with LBJ to aid med referrals

reporters@samoanews.com

Hawaiian Airlines announced yesterday that the Honolulu-based carrier has renewed its partnership with LBJ Medical Center to provide critical travel support for needed medical treatment abroad through a special program offering discounted fares to Honolulu, the mainland and Manila, Phillippines.

The partnership, now in its second year, targets LBJ patients under the off-island medical referral program, which has been without sufficient funding since December of 2008.

The partnership program “is a God-send in helping our patients receive the specialized care they need at other medical facilities across the Pacific, while easing the financial burden on them and their families,” said LBJ chief executive officer Mike Gerstenberger in a joint statement with Hawaiian Airlines.

“We thank Hawaiian Airlines for being such a great partner of our hospital and supporting the health care needs of our people,” he said.

Hawaiian spokesman Keoni Wagner said the airline recognizes the special role that air transportation plays in meeting the needs of the community in American Samoa and this “partnership with LBJ helps us to do what we can to make sure that appropriate medical care is accessible when it’s really needed.”

Cost-saving travel benefits being offered by Hawaiian are as follows:

•            180 round-trip flights for the patient and one travel companion between Pago Pago and Honolulu at a 50% discount off the lowest available web fare.

•            30 round-trip flights between Honolulu and any of the 10 Western U.S. cities served by Hawaiian at a 35% discount off the lowest available web fare at time of booking.

•            30 round-trip flights between Honolulu and Manila at a 45% discount off the lowest available web fare at time of booking.

According to the airline, any flights using these special fares by patients and their travel companions must be booked through the LBJ Medical Center.

In 2011, more than 150 patients from American Samoa utilized the program to travel abroad for treatment.

With no funding allocated for the off-island referral program, LBJ officials had testified in the Fono that they continue to provide referral information of off-island hospitals for patients. Gerstenberger had said that the discounts provided by Hawaiian Air have been very helpful to patients needing off-island care.

BACKGROUND

Two weeks ago the Senate rejected the House version of an administration bill seeking $10 million for the LBJ medical referral program. The main concern for senators is the funding source, which calls for the hike in excise tax for beer, alcohol and tobacco; increase in business license fees; and a new corporate franchise tax.

A majority of senators believe that this would just add another burden on the territory’s residents, who are already faced with the high cost of living in the territory.



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