By: L.N. Reklai

(Ngerulmud, Palau)  Senate Committee on Health, chaired by Senator Sandra Pierantozzi, recommended tabling the Senate bill 9-186, which seeks to include Palauans living overseas into the Palau National Health Insurance (NHI) program.

Based on the concerns expressed by the Social Security Administrator that administers the national health insurance and Health Care Fund Governing Board, the Senate Committee on Health recommended that the bill be tabled and that the 10th OEK conduct further study on the proposal.

The concerns raised by Social Security Administrator Ulai Teltull on the proposed bill include the “potential legal and administrative issues with taxing wages of those living and working overseas, difficulties with accessing established medical providers, challenge of tracking members and eligible dependents overseas …and the bill’s financial impact” on the program that is only in its 5th year of operation.

Citing some of the jurisdiction challenges, the NHI administrator cites the “legal and administrative ability of HCF to impose the tax levy of wages from employers outside of Palau, access to employer and employee information, issues of multiple employers, payment processes and timeliness given the distances and time differences not to mention locating more than 3,000 citizens living across United States and within Pacific and Asian region” will have a direct impact on the plan and undermines its financial position.

Given these challenges, the NHI administrator noted in her letter to the Senate that the national health insurance currently allows coverage of any citizen returning home to stay.  For anyone, the plan allows six months contribution in order to have coverage. For retirees returning home, they will be eligible for government subsidy immediately upon enrolling into the program.