State helps Micronesians' health care

Lillian Koller
Lillian Koller
William Swain
William Swain

By Kristine Uyeno - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Help is on the way for Micronesians in Hawaii who were about to lose important medical care.

The state has found a way to cover kidney dialysis for patients, without using additional state funds.

"We're very, very pleased to have been able to come up with this solution," said Lillian Koller, director of the Department of Human Services.

The new, Basic Health Hawaii program begins Tuesday and will now cover kidney dialysis for at least two more years.

The state will be reimbursed about $1.5 million annually from the federal Medicaid program. Initially, these patients would lose their treatment. The new program provides free health insurance for thousands of migrants from Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau who are beneficiaries of the Compacts of Free Association, with the federal government.

"It's not without some risk to us as a state, because it isn't 100% clear but it is certainly, we feel, we have a good argument to make and we will submit claims for that reimbursement," said Koller.

The Basic Health Hawaii program also includes 12 outpatient doctor visits a year, 10 hospital days and emergency medical and dental care.

But some say, this coverage, isn't enough.

"Some of the dialysis patients were denied as recently as this Thursday," said William Swain. He's with Pa Emman Kabjere, a community action group representing over 100 people on chemotherapy who the state says, will be covered.

"As I listen to the drug plan, i don't think it's there yet, only 5 generic drugs. Generic drugs don't cover chemotherapy and in most cases, do not cover dialysis patients," said Swain.

Like others, he is happy with the temporary help, but says the state needs to find a permanent solution.