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By Bernadette H. Carreon For Variety

KOROR, Palau (August 13, 2002 -Palau Horizon/Marianas Variety)---The Ministry of Health is seeking (US) $1 million for its medical referral program during fiscal year 2003.

Vice President and Health Minister Sandra Pierantozzi said, for this year the executive branch has earmarked $700,000 for the medical referral program. But the program has run out of money with still a few months left in the current fiscal year.

She said the $1 million will be sufficient to cover the FY 2002 shortfall and fund the program for FY 2003.

She said changes in lifestyles and the rising costs of medical diagnosis could lead to additional medical referral expenses.

According to Pierantozzi, Palau is not well equipped to address some of the lifestyle-related diseases that require patients to be sent off-island for treatment.

Pierantozzi said the rising medical costs in the Philippines could also contribute to additional expenses.

Since the number of patients who might make use of the program is very hard to predict, increasing its budget by $300,000 would be sufficient, she said.

Earlier, President Tommy Remengesau had to reprogram $50,000 for the medical referral program after it ran out of funds.

But Pierantozzi said the collection for medical referral delinquent accounts has also increased. The ministry recently collected over $100,000, which will be incorporated into the program.

She said the national government should consider other medical payment plans to help reduce the government’s high medical costs.

For additional reports from the Marianas Variety, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/ Marianas Variety.

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