Chairwoman Senator Rukebai Inabo, Senate Committee on Public Utilities, Communications, & Housing Development (PUC&HD) questioned HealthCare Fund Board’s decision to stop coverage of the follow-up medications of recovering cancer patients in a letter to the HCF Administrator Ulai Teltull on December 4, 2019.

“By unilaterally enacting this policy change, has the HealthCare Fund overstepped the authority it has been granted under the law? After all, the purpose of the Medical Referral Committee is to make decisions based on the medical expertise of its members,” questioned Senator Inabo of the HCF Governing Board decision.

In her letter to HCF Governing Board, Senator Inabo commended HCF Board’s action “to protect the Healthcare Fund from potential financial hardship” but she says they still question “overall compliance of this policy change with the intent of the law and the Constitution.”

Inabo says that the stopping of coverage or payments of medications of follow up patients is in violation of the government’s constitutional mandate to provide free or subsidized health care to all Palauans.

Furthermore, she expressed that the HCF recent policy change may have overstepped its authority by usurping the responsibility of the Medical Referral Committee.

“Shouldn’t the Medical Referral Committee also be in charge of approving follow up services and medications for patients returning from off-island treatment?” posed Inabo.  “After all,” she added, “the purpose of the Medical Referral Committee is to make decisions based on the medical  expertise of its members.”

In the earlier response to Senator Inabo, HCF Administrator Ulai Teltull stated, “Given our limited resources, the National Health Insurance does provide coverage to follow up care outside of Palau of airfare expenses and other necessary tests not available in Palau such as diagnostic tests and imaging equipment; the only exclusion is the specialty drug medications that can be sourced in Palau under member’s MSA.”

Senator Inabo in her recent letter called for another meeting with the HCF Board to discuss this issue further. (L.N. Reklai)