LBJ board of directors places Dialysis fee on hold
LBJ Medical Center board of directors has put a hold on the new fee for dialysis patients who visit the Dialysis unit, while more time is needed to study this issue, including the billing practices.
The dialysis facility fee of $20 per visit (not to exceed a maximum of $20 per week) was to go into effect last week but Samoa News learned from two patients last Friday that the fees weren’t implemented, and an LBJ hospital employee said over the weekend that the LBJ board has put a hold on the facility fee.
LBJ chief executive officer Mike Gerstenberger told Samoa News two weeks ago that the facility fee was to have gone into effect last July as part of the fee increases proposed for many hospital and clinical services, following a public hearing last June.
He says that for a variety of technical and administrative reasons, this fee is just now being implemented in the dialysis unit. “Regular dialysis patients are asked to pay $20 per week for their dialysis services. This fee is the same for residents and non-residents,” he said.
Samoa News sent email questions to hospital board chairperson Tofoitaufa Sandra King Young and on Monday this week, she responded in a media statement saying that the notice and hearing on the $20 fee was held nearly a year ago.
“The board was concerned that the length in time from when the notice and hearing were conducted, to the date the fee increase was implemented, was too long,” which practically voided the notice requirement for the public, she said.
“Dialysis services is unique in that it is eligible for Medicaid and Medicare funding,” she added, and noted that under the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), “medical care cannot be denied to patients because of their ability/or inability to pay.”
(EMTALA — also known as COBRA or the Patient Anti-Dumping Law — requires most hospitals to provide an examination and necessary stabilizing treatment, without consideration of insurance coverage or ability to pay, when a patient presents to an emergency room for attention to an emergency medical condition, according to the website EMTALA.com, which provides detailed information about this federal law.)
“Dialysis patients ‘must’ have access to care as their dialysis treatments are necessary. The board needs more time to study this issue including the billing practices of the hospital, especially as it pertains to commercial insurance providers,” she said.
A 67-year old dialysis patient told Samoa News yesterday that the board deserves “a big fa’afetai tele” for making sure that the financial burden of having to pay to visit the dialysis has been placed on hold and that such a fee should not be implemented, due to the costs, which become burdensome to patients.
“This new board has put people first — like Lolo’s campaign slogan — ‘People First”, said the male patient, before heading to the dialysis unit for one of his three weekly visits.
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