HCF is big and good policy

Tia Belau Editorial, October 16, 2013 —- 

History tells us that it is too much to expect every government to finish up its term with a profound public policy that improves social and economic circumstances of its citizens.

It is not easy to instantaneously recollect all the policies in place that has had impacted the lives of the Palauan people. The creation of National Development Bank of Palau and Civil Service Pension Plan readily comes to mind.

We are reminded of the law such as the 1999 increasing of minimum wage law to $2.50 and the recent increase to $2.75 that started on October 1, 2013, increasing every year until it reaches $3.50.

The national law RPPL No. 6-39 that established the framework for the Protected Areas Network (PAN) and the subsequent enactment of RPPL No. 7-42, which established the sustainable funding mechanism of PAN sites, is a major legislation.

While the talk of tax policies this year has ushered in a new word “VAT” into our vernacular; the best tax policy to come in years is the increase in tobacco tax. With 80 percent of our referral costs spent treating non-communicable diseases (NCDs), this was a no brainer. Tobacco use is recognized by WHO as the risk factor for all major NCDs – cardiovascular, diabetes, cancer, and chronic respiratory.

And which brings me to a genuine national health care program – the Health Care Fund (HCF). This is probably the single biggest domestic policy ever for Palau. The HCF provides insurance (NHI) for the unemployed, retired, elderly, and others who otherwise can’t contribute – non contributors, and provides a medical savings account (MSA) for individuals and beneficiaries.

I was reminded once again by the idea of HCF during President Remengesau visit to Shin Kong Hospital during his state visit to Taiwan earlier this month. News of President Remengesau visiting Palauan patients in Taiwan was reported by an online news outlet. President further reported during his radio press conference on October 16, of meeting with the patients.

Few Palauans can afford medical care without the aid of HCF, whether they are in-patient or out-patient. So seeing the happy face of Palauans recovering from their illnesses brings home the reality that HCF provides access to top notch physicians and advance medical devices is uplifting.

And that is not to say that health cloud technology is on the way. Imagine the wonders of modern medicine and advance medical technology combined with the force of the Health Care Fund, it will revolutionize healthcare treatment for many Palauans who otherwise can’t afford such treatment services.

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