Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) is optimistic that legislation introduced by Vermont Democrat Sen. Bernie Sanders would help improve the healthcare services in the territories like the CNMI. Sanders introduced H.R. 1354 along with seven other co-sponsors last Tuesday with the said legislation looking to put the territories the same at the federal level.
“Senator Sanders’ bill is something I support for the Northern Marianas. It is, as a matter of fact, a position I have taken for years,” Sablan told Saipan Tribune in an email.
“Having said that, the legislation alone wouldn’t make us eligible for a state like share of the [Federal Medical Assistance Percentage] or give us full eligibility into a state like Medicaid program.”
Sablan added, “Our health system needs to provide or improve the standard of care services it provides to the general population, and to Medicaid beneficiaries. And while that may take a few years, yes, it is something I support.”
Sanders, in a statement, said that is not right that a wealthy nation like the U.S. allowed its citizens to suffer. “The full resources of the United States must be brought to bear on this crisis, for as long as is necessary.”
“We must go forward to ensure a strong health care system in all the territories and address inequities in federal law that have allowed the territories to fall behind in almost every measurable social and economic criteria,” added Sanders, who is one of the 24 Democrats that are hoping to earn their party’s nomination to challenge Trump in 2020.
Early this month, H.R. 268, or the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2019, passed the Senate with an 85-5 vote and is now headed to President Donald J. Trump for his signature. Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-NY, 17) introduced the bill, which passed the house with a 354-58 margin.
Sablan said H.R. 268, which guarantees an additional $129.6 million in disaster relief aid for the CNMI, had $36 million made available for the Marianas Medicaid program while another $25.2 million for food aid.
“Behind the scenes negotiations produced another $56 million for solid waste facilities and $10.4 million for sewer and water infrastructure. Together with $2 million to help the Commonwealth with managing all this money, that is a total of $129.6 million—just for the [Commonwealth],” added Sablan in a previous statement.
Guam also earned a 100- percent medical assistance percentage in the $19.1-billion disaster aid bill [H.R. 268] that Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero also welcomed. “Our administration has been seeking Congressional support of our Medicaid funding issues.”
“We have sent letters, testified before Congress, and met with numerous Federal officials and agencies. We will continue to fight for equitable and fair treatment of Guam and the other U.S. Territories on these and all other matters,” said Deleon Guerrero, who is currently in Colorado for the Western Governors’ Association meeting, in a separate statement.