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The proposal to provide National Health Insurance (NHI) coverage to patients undergoing hemodialysis treatment was passed on third reading at the House of Delegates (HOD) yesterday, October 31.

House Bill No. 10-121-12, which seeks to amend the law governing the Palau Health Insurance (PHI), wants to allocate funds to support medical cost of patients undergoing hemodialysis whose treatment costs are currently not covered by the national health insurance scheme.

Some of the amendments proposed under the bill include the appropriation of $350,000 to the Health Care Fund (HCF) which will come from the Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) budget for Fiscal Year 2020.

It also proposed to allocate 2.5% of the annual revenue generated from taxes imposed on alcoholic beverages and another 2.5% of the taxes derived from annual revenue of tobacco to the HCF to supplement the health care costs relating to hemodialysis treatment.

On top of these, another $35,000 is also proposed to be allocated to support the six-month Palau Health Insurance actuarial study by the National Healthcare Financing Governing Committee to be able to assess the health care costs relating to hemodialysis. The amount is also proposed to be sourced from the NCD fund.

Delegate Jonathan Isechal, who is among the proponents of the bill, said that the measure was drafted based on the inputs from National Healthcare Financing Governing Committee Chairman, Dr. Victor Yano, and also based on their research.

The bill is already being transmitted to the Senate for readings.

A letter from Dr. Yano dated September 27, 2019 which was addressed to Delegate Isechal, revealed that the steering committee for the framework of the NHI policy previously excluded the coverage of hemodialysis treatment costs saying that it was found to be not “financially sustainable.”

Dr. Yano, in the letter, said that the only way to expand the benefits for dialysis treatment under the NHI is to amend the law and be able to provide sustainable funding for the HCF.

Dr. Yano revealed that the annual cost for 30 patients undergoing hemodialysis treatment for two to three times a week would reach $760,000. He said that average cost for each session per patient alone is at $392.