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  • By Pacific island Times News Staff

US Senate bill to expand healthcare coverage for territories

U.S. Democratic senators have introduced a bill that expand the availability of healthcare coverage to the 4 million Americans living in Guam, the CNMI, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa.

The Territories Health Equality Act of 2019 (S. 1773) would eliminate the cap on annual Medicaid funding to the territories, which is currently capped at about $17 million for Guam.

It also increases the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) rate to be on par with the states.

“This would not only result in tens of millions of dollars in additional Medicaid funding to Guam but also millions in savings to the island,” according to a press release from Adelup.

Among the eight cosponsors of the measure, five are Democratic Presidential hopefuls: Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced the legislation, while Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Corey Booker (D-NJ), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), cosponsored the bill. Other co-sponsors of the bill are Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Ed Markey (D-MA).

“We applaud the efforts of the U.S. Senate to bring healthcare parity to the territories and to recognize the hardships we have faced for years,” said Acting Governor Tenorio.

“Governor Leon Guerrero and our healthcare officials have gone before Congressional leaders and the White House on several occasions to seek action on this very issue and it’s encouraging to see our voices are finally being heard. With this bill set in the backdrop of a presidential election, we hope it garners the kind of attention it deserves and leads to tangible results that benefits all the citizens of the U.S. territories.”

The legislation, if enacted into law, would ensure the territories are afforded the same federal healthcare coverage and funding currently available to the 50 states.

The Territories Health Equality Act of 2019 was introduced as companion legislation to H.R. 1354, the House version of the measure, which was authored by USVI Delegate Stacey Plaskett (D), and co-sponsored by 37 House Representatives, including Guam Delegate Michael San Nicolas.

“We look forward to his support of our healthcare representatives later in the month when they return to Congress to testify on long-standing Medicaid issues on Guam,” Tenorio said.

Public Health and Social Services Chief Human Services program administrator for the Division of Public Welfare Maria Theresa Arcangel will be testifying at a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing later this month.


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