Guam- Governor Felix Camacho returned to Guam over the weekend, a few days after he signed the Health Insurance Bill into law. Now he is under fire by Senator Ben Pangelinan because he thinks the Gov signed this bill without ensuring that there are funds tocover it.
Camacho says, “Whether I’m on island or off island my authority as governor remains.”
He says, there was a possibility that the Health Care Bill wasn’t going to be signed by October 1st, and didn’t want that to happen, so he signed it.
In the past there have been court rulings about Camacho’s authority whether he is on or off island. And after this recent bill people are again questioning his authority.
According to Camacho, this is not like the old days when the Organic Act was passed, if you are off island and there’s no way to communication with Guam. Today it’s not an issue. It’s been established and taken to court before and I stand by my authority. What are they going to do about it now. If they don’t agree, take it to court
Camacho feels it was important to sign this Health Care Bill, because health care is becoming more and more an issue, but it’s not unique to Guam. Every single state and US Territory is struggling with rising health care cost.
According to Camacho, ” I could not allow the government to go into the new fiscal year without coverage. we have the active employees and families depending on it, we have retirees on and off the island that rely on it. And certainly coverage was necessary.”
But the Chair of the Legislature’s Budget Committee Senator Ben Pangelinan is critical of the Camacho administration for failing to inform his committee before hand of the potential for higher health insurance rates. Pangelinan is currently off island but released this statement.
“The Governor’s administration knew about the increase before signing the FY 2011 budget into law. I hope the Governor is not so irresponsible that he would obligate the government to such a significant cost without identifying the funding to make up for any shortfalls. If not, then it is unfortunate that Governor Camacho followed the suggestion of the negotiating team to accept the increased rates”
Camacho says this is going to require a comprehensive approach to find ways to afford this.
According to Pangelinan calculations GovGuam will need an additional $16 million dollars to pay for the new Government share of health insurance premiums for its employees, not including the autonomous agencies, such as GPA and GWA.
Last Friday BBMR Director Bertha Duenas says if you include autonomous agencies, about $20 million will be is needed to cover the shortfall.
Meanwhile, Vice Speaker B.J. Cruz has sent a letter to Acting Guam Attorney General John Weisenberger seeking an explanation for his reason for signing off on the GovGuam/Calvo’s SelectCare health insurance agreement knowing that the FY2011 GovGuam budget does not fully fund the government’s share of premiums. Cruz asked why the agreement, which has significant fiscal impact, does not require certification of funds availability and whether the signature of the BBMR director constitutes such certification.
Camacho says this is going to require a comprehensive approach to find ways to afford this. The mandates imposed by law and become a requirement by the executive branch to implement far exceed our revenues and that’s not news to anyone so there has to be a look at the legislature with the new administration coming in to find new revenue sources and they may have to cut out certain programs.
Camacho also says this health care and the associated costs with the Obama care, the impacts are now beginning to be felt. He also says, “You can’t provide for more privileges and expect it to be free.”