Palestinians protest for 2nd day UNRWA health care changes

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Palestinian groups closed the office of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in south Lebanon for the second consecutive day on Friday, the state-run National News Agency reported.

The agency's services office in Ain al-Hilweh, the director's office in the southern city of Sidon and the bus stop in the area have also been closed off by demonstrators, the NNA said.

And UNRWA offices were shut down Thursday in the northern city of Tripoli, as well as in the Ain al-Hilweh and Mieh Mieh refugee camps in the south.

Palestinians living in Lebanon's 12 refugee camps have been protesting since January UNRWA's controversial health care modifications, which were announced earlier this year.

Under the new guidelines, Palestinians are required to pay referral care costs of 5 percent if they receive treatment at a Palestinian Red Crescent hospital, 15 percent at a government hospital, and 20 percent at a private hospital.

Those health care benefits were free at all three types of institutions.

However, UNRWA argues that this isn’t a cut in service because more funding is now directed toward other areas, including expanded coverage for complex surgery and long-term care. The relief agency now covers 60 percent of tertiary care expenses, up from 50 percent, to a ceiling of $5,000, up from $4,200. They say this shift represents changing health care needs.

Many Palestinians believe these changes to health services are part of a bigger plan to cut much-needed aid.

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