25 Sep 2004

Hawaii medical costs questioned by US senate

9:10 am on 25 September 2004

The US Senate Appropriations Committee is challenging medical costs attributed to Marshall Islanders and other Micronesians that Hawaii hospitals claim should be repaid by the US federal government.

The committee is concerned about the composition of the reported uncompensated costs, as some of it appears to consist of debts owed by the freely associated state governments and not by individual migrants in Hawaii.

The committee's concerns were voiced in a report issued this week in conjunction with a budget for the 2005 fiscal year for US territories of US$74.3 million.

Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands have compacts of free association with the US that allow for unrestricted, visa-free entry to the US for their citizens to live, work and study.

In an amended Compact approved last year, the US is providing US$15 million a year to Hawaii, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Most of that money is going to Hawaii to reimburse it for the costs of having people from the Marshalls, Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia.

The Appropriations Committee has directed the Interior department to work with the Health Care Association of Hawaii to obtain independent verification of each individual the reimbursement claims requested.