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Gov Lolo plans to reconstitute LBJ board, reduce fees

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga plans to reconstitute before the end of this week the LBJ Medical Center board of directors and one of the board’s priorities is to reduce the current facility fee.

Lolo made the revelation yesterday during his State of the Territory Address when he spoke about the healthcare agenda for his administration, which took office on Jan. 3. There has been talk in the community as to what Lolo will do with the LBJ board — after taking action to reconstitute the board of the American Samoa Power Authority — especially with the current patient or user fees paid to LBJ.

Last year, the only two active board members were chairman Moananu Va and Lelei Peau.

According to the governor the new LBJ board — to be reconstituted before the end of this week — should take action to reduce the current $20 fee to see the doctor to $10. Moreover, the board will charge all residents of American Samoa “the same fee regardless of immigration status or nationality.”

“Moreover, the fee charged for conducting a battery of tests at the laboratory is to be reduced within the first 100 days from the time the new board is activated,” he said but didn’t give any hint as to who he will appoint to the board.

Fee hikes went into effect on July 2 of last year, after being deferred at least twice. Then Gov. Togiola Tulafono said the rates were implemented because the needs of the hospital were not met for its operations.

One of the biggest complaints voiced by the community last year was the high fees in the “non-resident” category of the population, which are those who are not U.S. citizens/nationals or permanent residents of the territory.

LBJ chief executive officer Mike Gerstenberger had stated that there has been no fee hike at LBJ since 2006 while the “average health care costs have gone up three and half percent a year,” referring to the cost of things purchased by the hospital — such as medication.

Meanwhile, Lolo told lawmakers yesterday that his administration’s first order of healthcare business is to ensure and guarantee that the ASG subsidy for LBJ is paid in full and on time.

More in later editions regarding healthcare agenda of the Lolo Administration.