House committee unanimously OKs extension of more Medicaid aid for Guam, other territories

MEDICAID: The Northern Region Health Center is shown on June 2, 2020. Guam health care will receive a funding boost in the event of the full passage of legislation that would allow the federal government to pay 83 cents for every $1 of Medicaid cost over eight years. Kevin Milan/The Guam Daily Post

The measure to extend Medicaid enhancement to Guam for eight years and provide $130 million in annual federal match funding has gained unanimous approval by the full House Energy and Commerce Committee, members of Congress announced.

The legislation would provide federal matching funds at 83 cents for every $1 of Medicaid spending over eight more years. The local government pays the remaining 17 cents.

Without the 83% federal match, Guam faced what's been called a "Medicaid cliff." The federal match for Guam has fluctuated but has been 55% in the past, which means the local government needed to put up a 45% share to get the federal government to cover the rest. In fiscal 2019, Congress raised the federal match to 100%. In fiscal 2020 and 2021, the federal match was set to 83%, and then to about 89%, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reps. Darren Soto, a Democrat from Florida, and Gus Bilirakis, a Republican also from Florida, introduced H.R. 4406, the Supporting Medicaid in the U.S. Territories Act of 2021, to provide five years of expanded Medicaid funding for Puerto Rico and 83% federal funding match over eight years for Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa.

H.R. 4406 is co-sponsored by Reps. Michael San Nicolas, Democrat, Guam; Jenniffer González-Colón, Republican, Puerto Rico; Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen, Republican, American Samoa; Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, Democrat, Northern Marianas; and Stacey Plaskett, Democrat, U.S. Virgin Islands.

"This resounding bipartisan support of H.R. 4406 is solid momentum for the extension of our recently enhanced federal funding for Medicaid, and will translate to over a billion dollars in cumulative health care funding for our Medicaid eligible, which also includes our (Compact of Free Association) brothers and sisters," San Nicolas stated.

Lisa Lacasse, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, welcomed the legislation's forward movement.

“For individuals facing a cancer diagnosis without access to quality, affordable health coverage, insurance coverage through Medicaid can be the difference between life and death. This bipartisan bill to extend funding for Medicaid in Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands is an important step in addressing long-term funding issues that have plagued the Medicaid program in the territories and threatened access to health coverage and funding for hospital systems," Lacasse stated.

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero, in a statement, said, in part: “Over the last three years, we have worked closely with our sister territories and members of Congress, including (House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, D-N.J.). Particularly in the last several months, I have continued to underscore the need for a permanent solution in my testimony to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and our annual report.

“During my meetings with the White House and Congress, I will continue to push for full passage of H.R. 4406,” said the governor, who is heading to Washington, D.C.

“Research shows individuals without access to health insurance are more likely than those with health insurance to be diagnosed with cancer at a later stage when the disease is more costly to treat and survival less likely," said Lacasse. "We look forward to working with members of Congress to extend funding for this lifesaving program. Doing so is critical to reducing health disparities, especially cancer disparities, improving cancer outcomes and saving more lives from this disease.”

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