By last night, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero was expected to have signed into law legislation that would authorize the hiring of an outside law firm to represent Guam in a nationwide lawsuit or lawsuits against the manufacturers of polyfluoroalkyls, commonly referred to as PFAS chemicals, which can cause lasting health problems if ingested.
The measure the governor proposed moved at legislative lightning speed. It was introduced Monday and discussed the same day. Although it was initially held off until a public hearing a week later, the senators had a change of heart. They passed the legislation and voted for it unanimously in less than three days.
Prior to the lawmakers' vote, Guam Waterworks Authority General Manager Miguel Bordallo testified that there have been no PFAS chemicals recently found in Guam's drinking water. Water wells that did show some contamination have been shut down for years.
While there is a need for filing a lawsuit and joining other jurisdictions in ongoing water contamination cases, our elected officials have shown selective prioritization of one important health issue over another.
Creating law in three days is incredibly fast compared to most other pieces of legislation that are just as important, if not more so.
We hope the Legislature and the governor will also prioritize legislation or pieces of proposed laws that urgently address the looming local health care crisis on many fronts. We all know how Guam Memorial Hospital's festering financial woes could one day send it financially crashing down at a time when private hospital Guam Regional Medical City has laid off employees and downsized its operations.
Last week, we found out that the government of Guam planned to reduce funding to the Medically Indigent Program by more than 90% next fiscal year. That's a program that has been relied on by as many as 9,000 people in a year.
This week, a U.S. Government Accountability Office report also raised the issue that Guam's governor has acknowledged that 50% of current Medicaid enrollees here are at risk of losing benefits after some expanded Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act funding for the program expires on Sept. 30.
"Territory officials told us that while they do not plan to issue debt to cover this shortfall in federal Medicaid funding, it will cost Guam approximately $39 million to fund the program in fiscal year 2020."
These two health care programs alone will be almost $50 million short starting a few months from now.
Yet there hasn't been as much legislative and gubernatorial vigor in tackling these funding shortages – at least in comparison to hiring an attorney for a future lawsuit.