After years of petitioning both Congress and multiple White House administrations to increase the Medical Assistance Percentage program subsidy for the island – from 55% to 100% - we’re hoping to hear some good news.

The increased subsidy is a provision in a larger disaster aid bill, which the House has passed. It now only needs President Trump’s signature - something Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero is optimistic that President Trump will sign the bill into federal law.

The increase in subsidy means a savings of $5.6 million would be saved because there would no longer be a need for the local government to come up with local matching funds to access federal health care dollars. Currently, there is $47 million in Medicaid funding still available to Guam until the end of the fiscal year, which is Sept. 30.

Guam’s health care system could use whatever boost it can get to ensure more people have access to health care.

The Guam Statistical Yearbook, reporting the most recent statistics in 2010, showed more than 21% of the island’s 153,625 people had no insurance. That’s 32,465 people without health insurance. Of that, more than 7,600 were children.

That means, there were parents out there who couldn’t bring their children to the clinic for their regular checkups and other preventative care. If the children got sick they had no clinic to turn to and so had two options: hope their children got better or wait until it got worse and bring them to the Guam Memorial Hospital’s emergency room where they would have to pay a higher cost for medical care and they would have to pay out of pocket – a cost not everyone can afford, thus leaving GMH with the expense of providing a service but no payment for it. This is just one of the factors in GMH’s $30 million shortfall that we see every year.

Medicaid provides health coverage to many people on Guam who would otherwise be without.

Hopefully, the savings as well as the potentially unlocked Medicaid funds can be used to help more people while we have this subsidy, which unfortunately is for this fiscal year only.

There’s no question the bill’s passage into law would be great news, but we can't celebrate yet. Our elected leaders need to look beyond this year to see what more can be done.

GMHA has done a remarkable job in the last few years of getting reimbursements and increased rates of reimbursements from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. This allows them to do more for our island community.

Considering the number of people without insurance or who are underinsured, leaders need to stop debating and come up with a plan to help thousands of Guamanians get access to health care.

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