After Senate victory, House delays voting on Disaster Aid bill

(From the United States House of Representatives )

After the US Senate gave its thumbs up to the Disaster Aid Bill on Thursday, the legislation failed to get a final vote at the House during session on Friday after a legislator made an objection to holding a vote.

The bill has a provision that would increase Guam’s Federal Medical Assistance Percent or FMAP from 55 to 100 percent. This would relieve Government of Guam from matching the remaining ACA subsidy requirements through the end of the fiscal year.

At the time the bill made it to the floor, the lawmakers were preparing to go into the long Memorial Day Weekend.

Texas Representative Chip Roy, who made a procedural objection, said, “I’m here today primarily because if I do not object, Congress will have passed into law a bill that spends $19 billion of taxpayer money without members of Congress being present in our nation’s capital to vote on it.”

Around $268 million in ACA funds was appropriated for Guam in 2011 but the funding requires a 45 percent local match. In prior years, GovGuam struggled to come up with the local match.

The provision in the Senate’s Disaster Aid Bill would have provided relief to GovGuam by matching the remaining subsidy from the ACA but within a limited timeframe of January 1, 2019 to September 30, 2019.

In the 50 states and the District of Columbia,  the federal government matches all Medicaid expenditures at the appropriate federal matching assistance percentage (FMAP) rate for that state. In Guam, the FMAP is applied until the Medicaid ceiling funds and the ACA available funds are exhausted.

Director of Public Health and Social Services Linda DeNorcey and Chief Human Service Program Administrator Tess Arcangel shared with Newstalk K57 listeners that all insular areas face the same funding challenges as Guam, which can be summed up as a lack of parity in comparison to benefits that most states receive.

A struggle 

“Every year, we struggle to find the local match. In February, I testified before Congress and implored them to treat Guam and the other U.S. Territories equitably
by lifting the cap on Medicaid funding like the Federal Government does for the states, and by increasing our FMAP. I followed this up with a letter to the Senate a
few weeks later, urging them to include language in the Emergency Disaster Relief legislation that would also provide much-needed relief to the Territories whose
Medicaid programs face serious shortages,” said Governor Lou Leon Guerrero.

The Disaster Relief Bill provides assistance to states and territories recently affected by hurricanes, wildfires, and other devastating disasters.

According to media reports, the bill will be brought back to the floor after the Memorial Day recess.