By Pacific Island Times News Staff
Medicaid fund stabilization bill for territories set to be filed this week
An agreement has been reached in the U.S. Congress to move forward with legislation that would stabilize Medicaid funding for the territories through an eight-year plan for Guam, the CNMI, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands, while Puerto Rico gains stable funding for five years.
Congressmen Darren Soto and Gus Bilirakis are expected to introduce a bipartisan bill this week. If passed and signed into law, the bill would avert a fiscal cliff that would otherwise result from the Sept. 30 expiration of the expanded Medicaid coverage for U.S. territories.
In a joint statement, Frank Pallone, Jr., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a ranking member of the committee, said the bill, once introduced, would immediately be marked up by the Health Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee in preparation for a vote by the full House of Representatives.
The bipartisan agreement extends the increased funding and improved federal/local matching rates of 83 and 17 percent.
"We are thankful for the engagement and support of the Energy and Commerce Committee for our ongoing Medicaid concerns, which we anticipate will be met over the coming eight years, with an annual 83 percent federal match and $130 million annual federal funding pool," said Congressman Michael San Nicolas, Guam's delegate to Congress.
"With a bipartisan effort supported by our territories, we anticipate smooth passage of this legislation into law, an aversion of the Medicaid Cliff, and a sustained improvement in the ability of the government of Guam to provide expanded healthcare to our community," San Nicolas said.
"This is in line with our advocacy and a major step toward full Medicaid parity, bringing our expanded federal matching and funding into a full cumulative decade," San Nicolas added.
For the CNMI, Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan said, the bill would provide $480 million in federal Medicaid funding over the next eight years.
The local match will be 17 percent, lower than any state government, said Sablan, the CNMI's delegate to Congress.
Congresswoman Uifa’atali Amata, American Samoa's delegate, said eight years of stability for the territories' Medicaid FMAP would "provide certainty."
“Our people depend on Medicaid for health care access and necessary services, and we must know we have this dependable, steady funding in place," Amata said.
Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said she is pleased with the U.S. lawmakers' support for the U.S. territories' Medicaid.
However, she added, "this solution isn’t permanent and we can’t rest on past successes. That is why I will continue the strong push for our federal agenda in Washington D.C. later this month.”