By Johnnie Rosario
(Tumon, Guam) An article in yesterday's Guam Daily Post covered the story of the ending of Medicaid coverage for about 40,000 residents on Guam, and thousands more in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The article centers around a letter by Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero to Washington officials about the so-called Medicaid Cliff, newly dated at November 15 this year.
The story is lopsided.
Medicaid coverage for the Mariana Islands was supposed to end with its authorizing provision in the Patient Affordable Care Act on September 30, 2019. The authority to fund Medicaid coverage for Mariana Islands residents was extended to November 15 this year, when a continuing resolution to keep the federal government operating passed Congress and President Trump signed it into law. If another continuing resolution doesn't pass or doesn't include the continuation of this Medicaid authorization, or if a standalone measure doesn't authorize the funding before November 15, then the islands of the Marianas will not have money for Medicaid patients to have health insurance.
Ms. Leon Guerrero did not act on this problem until the last minute; and even at that, she sent her letters to the wrong branch of the federal government.
Kandit and other media organizations reported that Guam Congressman Michael San Nicolas, CNMI Congressman Gregorio "Kilili" Sablan, their colleageues from the other territories, and Florida Congressman Darren Soto proposed a legislative solution as far back as July 9, 2019. They introduced House Resolution 3631, which would extend Medicaid coverage for the territories for the next five years. In Guam's case, Mr. San Nicolas managed to provide for 100 percent federal cost share for the next two years, a significant achievement and savings for Guam.
Ms. Leon Guerrero has not sent one letter of support for the initiative, which is backed by CNMI Gov. Ralph Torres. Mr. Torres has been working with Mr. Kilili to help get the measure passed, along with Mr. San Nicolas and the other Congressional members in the House. Even Republican senators from Guam - Wil Castro, Telo Taitague, and Louise Muna - went to Washington to pitch for the measure.
"We are working to get some form of extension beyond November, however it is critical that we are sensitive to the bi-partisan support we need to do this," said Congressman San Nicolas.
"The House version we co-sponsored provides the solution long-term and has bi-partisan support; however, ongoing Senate negotiations to move the measure through both Chambers are ongoing and face resistance," Congressman San Nicolas added.
"During these delicate political times we need to be mindful of Guam's agenda and be cautious when we engage in national issues that could compromise high need areas for our island," Congressman San Nicolas concludes.