A proposed bill has been submitted by President Surangel Whipps Jr. seeking to expand the 10% of the revenue from tobacco tax to also pay for off-island medical referral expenses, especially the cost of managing the Medical Referal Program which was transferred last year from the Ministry of Health to the Palau HealthCare Fund.
“The Medical Referral Program, previously housed and managed under the Ministry of Health and Human Services, was formally transferred to the healthcare Fund (HCF) along with all off-island medical services, administrative control, staff, equipment, and facilities. This transfer has expanded the role of the Healthcare Fund in managing the Medical Referral Program outside of Palau. With this expansion of responsibilities and increasing service delivery costs, more funds must be allocated to cover these additional costs.”
The bill further states that NCD continues to be one of the greatest threats Palau faces and expects the trend of outgoing medical referrals to continue to increase.
The program was moved from the Ministry of Health and Human Services to Palau Healthcare Fund without corresponding funding, and the Healthcare Fund has assumed the cost of managing the program.
Not all lawmakers are supportive of the proposal, and call for the Medical Referral Program to be returned to back to the Ministry of Health and Human Services.