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C of C president invites LBJ to explain new fees to private sector

fili@samoanews.com

LBJ Medical Center chief executive officer Michael Gerstenberger has been asked to speak later this month at a meeting of the Chamber of Commerce on the new rates for the hospital and the difference between resident and non resident rates.

Chamber chairman David Robinson had earlier voiced concerns over the big difference in the resident and non resident fees, as some members of the business organization had begun to complain, due mainly to the fact that many private sector companies utilize a large workforce of individuals, who are from foreign countries.

Robinson told Samoa News that he met recently with Gerstenberger for discussions over the big differences in fees for residents and non-residents, and he came away with a much better understanding of the law dealing with this issue, which has been in place for many years.

Difference in fee increases, for example, has residents paying for an outpatient clinical service at $20 per visit while non-residents pay $20 which is “due at time of service” and $85  “balance due later”; and, visits to the Medical, Surgical, OB/GYN and Mental Health units are $50 for non-residents “due at time of service” and $695 the “balance due later”.

“With this big fee hike for non residents, and stories circulating in the business community questioning why non-residents were treated this way, I was a bit concerned, and I met with the hospital CEO,” Robinson said Monday this week. “I asked the CEO directly for a complete explanation.”

“I was informed that the law has been in place for many years that protects residents by giving them subsidized health care — through ASG subsidies — but not non-residents,” said Robinson, who added that he was also provided an explanation on who are considered residents and non-residents.

Gerstenberger told Samoa News last week that by virtue of the law, ASG has established that it will only subsidize American Samoan residents and it “does so via the ASG subsidy to the Hospital and the Medicaid match.”

He also points out that the determination of who is eligible is in the statute ASCA 13.0602 — titled “Persons entitled to free medical attention-Limitations-Extent” (See Samoa News story Apr. 27, 2012 for more details).

“So the issue regarding the difference in rates for residents and non-residents has been there for a very long time, but it has been highlighted recently due to the new rate increase being proposed by the hospital,” Robinson told Samoa News. “I don’t want the Chamber of Commerce to take on the hospital regarding the new rates when the law is already in place.”

“However, what the Chamber members need to be clear about is the rationale behind the fee increases and future plans by the hospital to prevent any further increases,” said Robinson. “And this is the reason I have invited the hospital CEO to address the Chamber in two weeks time to provide an explanation to the private sector members.”

Asked if he had received any concerns from StarKist Samoa, who has a large workforce of foreigners affected by the new fee hikes, Robinson said he plans to talk soon with the cannery for their view on this matter.

Meanwhile, Robinson departs this Friday for business meetings off-island including one in New Zealand with Bellingham Marine Inc., the firm who provided engineering plans and other work for Robinson’s pet project — to develop the western end of the Pago Pago Harbor.

The project, estimated to cost a little over $3 million, also includes a new Harborwalk Marina and Boardwalk Plan. Last year, developer Marina Developments Ltd., a local firm in which Robinson is a partner, submitted to the government a funding application under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

Asked for an update on this project, Robinson said he is still working very closely with the local Commerce Department on the project and looking at ways to put together a public-private sector joint venture.

His trip to New Zealand is also part of this project to hold further discussions with Bellingham.



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