Guam – Guam Lawmakers went back into Session Saturday morning and voted 8 – 6 to approve a new bill introduced by Senator Ben Pangelinan that effectively caps spending on health insurance coverage for GovGuam employees and retirees in FY 2014 at roughly $55-million dollars.*
[Senator Rodriguez had an excused absence and was not present for the vote].
The proposal is likely to be vetoed by the Governor.
But if it becomes law, it would force GovGuam to chose the “exclusive” health insurance option for GovGuam employees, because there would not be enough money to pay for the “non-exclusive” health insurance option recently selected by the Governor.
Senator Pangelinan asked for the public hearing process to be waived, the motion was made and approved, touching off a heated debate on his Bill #174.
During the debate Saturday, Senator Pangelinan cited the report submitted by the Department of Administration on behalf of the GovGuam Health Insurance Negotiating Team. That report he said found that the “exclusive” health insurance option would save GovGuam and its employees $18.7 million dollars [roughly $8-million in savings on premium payments for employees and $10-million in savings on GovGuam’s premium payments].
“The savings that this government can realize … is about an additional $10 million dollars,” said Senator Pangelinan.
Bill #174 does NOT assign or appropriate any funds to any specific GovGuam program.
But, Pangelinan said it “would allow us to take those savings and apply them to the other needs of this Government. Whether that be public health, whether that be public safety, whether it be the Hay study, whether it be COLA at 18-hudnred dollars,” said Pangelinan.
“We are not dictating choice,” said the Appropriations Committee Chair. “What we are doing here is exercising our legislative choice to appropriate money … we choose to fund the most economical plan,” said Senator Pangelinan.
Minority Leader Senator Tony Ada said “Here we are today with Bill # 174 that takes that multiple choice away from our employees and retirees and brings that down to a single choice,” said Senator Ada.
“What are we doing here today?” asked Senator Ada. “We come into Session at 9 o’clock this morning. I got a time stamp of the bill August 24th at 9:02.”
“What is the rush?” asked Republican Senator Tommy Morrison, “I believe that this needs to go through its proper process of a public hearing,” he said adding “I believe that this bill, Bill #174, is designed to drag this budget and create a disaster scenario.”
Democrat Senator Mike San Nicolas criticized the Republicans reminding them that they failed to support an override of Senator Pangelinan’s health insurance choice bill, Bill #81, when it was vetoed earlier this year by the Governor.
“The very Senators now who are saying they want choice, did not vote for the over ride. They wanted to protect the exclusive carrier which is who?” asked San Nicolas, answering his own question by saying “My insurance card says [Calvo] SelectCare.”
This year, three insurance companies were qualified to offer health insurance to GovGuam employees by the Health Insurance negotiating team which made no recommendation when its report was submitted to the Governor. Each carrier provided cost estimates for an “exclusive” and a “non-exclusive” plan. The “exclusive” plans from each provider were all less costly than the “non-exclusive” plans they offered.
However, the Governor chose the “non-exclusive” option to allow employees and retirees to choose from the 3 qualified providers. No final contracts have been signed yet. The names of the 3 providers have not been released.
So the name of the health insurance provider offering an “exclusive” plan for $18.7 million less, is not publicly known. But Senator San Nicolas surmised it is TakeCare, not the current provider Calvo SelectCare.
“I seriously doubt” said San Nicolas that it is Calvo’s SelecCare that is offering a plan that is $18 million dollars less with less benefits. “I extrapolate that the ‘exclusive’ carrier is probably TakeCare because the Court went out and got their own insurance and got their own savings and got better benefits and it was TakeCare.”The various budgets recently introduced, but not yet approved, have proposed spending roughly $75 million dollars on health insurance for GovGuam employees and retirees in FY 2014 which would be the cost of coverage under the “non-exclusive” health insurance option chosen by the Governor.
However the Democrats who voted for Senator Pangelinan’s Bill #174 argued that because the “exclusive” health insurance option would save $18.7 million dollars, the allotment for health insurance could be lowered to roughly $55-million.
[*The spending caps in Bill #174 total roughly $29M. The cost for health insurance for Federal Grant employees and for those working at the autonomous agencies like DOE and GMH amount to roughly $26M making a rough total of $55M.]
READ Majority Leader Senator Respicio’s report on the Saturday Session below:
Guam – August 24, 2013
For Immediate Release
SENATOR RESPICIO ISSUES SESSION UPDATE
(Hagåtña, Guam) Majority Leader and Rules Chair Senator Rory J. Respicio, reports that during this morning’s Session, Senators of the 32nd Guam Legislature voted on the item listed below. Session will resume this afternoon at 2:00 p.m. Bill No. 174-32 (LS) – V. C. Pangelinan, R.J. Respicio, M.F. Q. San Nicolas, J.T. Won Pat, Ed.D., T.R. Muña Barnes, B.J.F. Cruz, T. C. Ada, F. B. Aguon, Jr.
AN ACT MAKING APPROPRIATIONS FOR MEDICAL AND DENTAL INSURANCE PREMIUMS FOR EMPLOYEES OF THE EXECUTIVE AND LEGISLATIVE BRANCHES AND FOR RETIREES OF THE GOVERNMENT OF GUAM FOR FISCAL YEAR ENDING SEPTEMBER 30, 2014.
*PASSED (8 yeas; 6 nays – V.A. Ada, C.M. Duenas, M. Limtiaco, B. McCreadie, T. Morrison, A.A. Yamashita, Ph.D.; 1 excused absence- D.G. Rodriguez, Jr.)
UNSWORN DECLARATION: I hereby declare that the foregoing is true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief, under penalty of perjury of the laws of Guam, this declaration being sworn and made in lieu of an affidavit pursuant to Title 6 Guam Code Annotated §4308, at the place and date identified herein.
Rory J. Respicio