Medicaid crucial to leveling field for health care in US territories

Equitable Medicaid funding is critical to improve health, reduce cancer disparities

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Cancer patients and survivors, health care providers, patient advocates and territorial leadership in Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands spoke last week about the importance of Medicaid in the U.S. territories during a nationwide virtual event hosted by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. 

The discussion focused on the role of Medicaid in improving access to health care and addressing health disparities, responding to natural disasters and the pandemic, and the major problems with block grant funding for Medicaid in the territories. The event also addresses the ongoing issue of securing additional federal Medicaid funding for the territories. This supplement funding was set to run out Thursday, Sept. 30, but was included in the continuing resolution Congress passed to keep the government open. That resolution expires on Dec. 3. 

Health coverage through Medicaid plays a significant role in improving access to health for many people with low incomes, including children, people with disabilities and millions of cancer patients and survivors. Medicaid funding is also important for supporting hospitals and health systems. Medicaid is a key pillar in addressing public health and supporting the health systems in Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands, where it’s also one of the largest sources of health insurance. 

“We know that access to health coverage is key to surviving cancer. In fact, coverage through Medicaid can be the difference between life and death for people facing a cancer diagnosis who do not have access to quality, affordable health coverage,” said Cynthia Au, ACS CAN Hawaii and Guam government relations director. “Unfortunately, the Medicaid programs in the territories have been challenged with long-term funding issues that threaten access to health coverage and funding for their hospital systems.”

In the states, Medicaid funding changes in response to health care costs and the number of people who qualify for the program. However, Medicaid in Guam and the rest of the U.S. territories is partly funded through block grants—where this base funding does not adjust to meet growing health care costs, or increased need from economic downturns, natural disasters, or pandemics. 

“Ensuring adequate and equitable funding is critical to reduce health disparities, especially cancer disparities, improve cancer outcomes and save more lives,” Au added. (PR)

Press Release
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