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SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (November 29, 2000 - Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat)---Dependents of CNMI government employees studying in Hawai‘i say they are being refused medical treatment unless they pay cash for healthcare services.

The chairman of the Northern Mariana Islands Retirement Fund board went to Honolulu last week to try to sort out the problem.

He met with CNMI liaison office officials and the Hawai‘i Management Alliance Association (HMAA).

Mr. Camacho admits his organization has asked government health insurance members to pay for their medical treatment and then later make a claim to the fund.

"When the program here was set up under the retirement fund and was transferred to us in June 1996, the legislature never funded one cent to the trust fund," Mr. Camacho said.

"We’re trying to get $6 million from the government so we can privatize part of this function so we can hire HMAA out of Honolulu to take care of health insurance business," he added.

Mr. Camacho said patients now are being asked to pay $75 out of their own pockets for an office visit.

"This is not good for our credibility," he added. "The (Hawai‘i students) are very frustrated. Most people can’t afford $75, much less a couple hundred dollars for treatment."

However, Mr. Camacho said if students get gravely ill or seriously injured, they can go to an emergency room, which will not turn them away.

Mr. Camacho said he has written to the governor and legislature in an effort to secure funding to solve the problem.

For additional reports from Radio Australia/Pacific Beat, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia/Pacific Beat.

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