‘Man-made disaster’ looms


Gov. Ralph DLG Torres joined the chief executives of Guam, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa in calling for “need-based” Medicaid funding for fair and equal footing across the board.

Torres joined Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero, USVI Gov. Albert Bryan Jr., American Samoa Gov. Lolo M. Moliga, and Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda V. Garced in a letter to congressional leaders dated Sept. 12, 2019, that called for fair, equitable healthcare coverage for territories—similar to what is available to the 50 U.S. states and District of Columbia.

The territorial governors cited the following advantages when Medicaid funding in the territories is fair: Eliminate the arbitrary cap on annual federal Medicaid funding; increase the federal matching rate for the territories’ Medicaid expenditures; update hospital reimbursements’ and increase funding for prescription drug coverage to low-income seniors, the letter noted.

This comes as both federal funding provided to U.S. territories under Public Law 115-123, or the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, and the Affordable Care Act—also known as ObamaCare—expire on Sept. 30, 2019.

“This reversion to the earlier status quo will have grave implications for approximately four million Americans living in the U.S. territories…,” the letter noted.

All five governors of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the CNMI signed off on the letter.

“If Congress does not act before Sept. 30, 2019…our enrollees may lose their Medicaid coverage and access to compensated care aimed at treating life-threatening disease and conditions and preventing needless deaths,” the letter noted. “It is our hope that Congress will work with the U.S. territories to reverse course and resolve the Medicaid funding cliff. Failure to do so will constitute a man-made disaster and a blot on the human rights record of the United States.”

The letter took note of the recovering USVI and Puerto Rico, which were hit by hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017. It also took note of Super Typhoon Yutu, which struck the CNMI late October 2018, referring to Yutu as the “strongest storm to hit American soil in over 30 years.”

“Losing their medical insurance is the last thing our vulnerable population needs as they face the ongoing impact of these violent storms on local economies and on their physical and mental health,” the letter stated.

Erwin Encinares | Reporter
Erwin Charles Tan Encinares holds a bachelor’s degree from the Chiang Kai Shek College and has covered a wide spectrum of assignments for the Saipan Tribune. Encinares is the paper’s political reporter.

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