The tax hikes and fee increases would pay for a form of universal healthcare coverage called WeCare.
Guam – The Governor’s office insists that no tax hikes or fee increases will be needed as part of a massive bond borrowing bill that is having a public hearing today.
The governor’s office sent out several press releases and even created a meme to allay concerns about tax hikes and fee increases that were once being proposed as part of a Guam Memorial Hospital transformation bill by Governor Eddie Calvo. Governor Calvo’s senior advisor Troy Torres says while it was once a proposal, the governor is now supporting Senator Dennis Rodriguez Jr.’s version of his measure or bill 340.
“This section of the governor’s proposal does not require any tax fee increases. The revenue generation will come from the hospital itself. It will become a self-sustaining hospital if we invest into these services,” says Torres.
Those services Torres is referring to are not currently in bill 340, which is why the governor’s office is now lobbying senators to include an amendment into the legislation to allow for the capital improvement projects. The CIP will transform GMH’s z wing into a four-story outpatient facility complete with an interventional radiology center, cath lab and a cancer center.
“So that GMH can pay for essentially what the federal government is not compensating GMH for as it should and also make up for the bond payments that we would have year to year,” he notes.
But even with a state of the art outpatient facility, would that still be enough to sustain the hospital? After all, a majority of GMH’s financial problems could be attributed to the uninsured and underinsured population as well as unreimbursed claims to the federal government.
“It makes our problem sustainable. It makes things OK so that it’s not an every two years GMH is asking for money,” says Torres.
This is where the tax hikes and fee increases come into play. It may not be a topic up for discussion right now, but Torres says it is something the Calvo administration will be addressing down the road. If approved, the funds generated through new taxes would pay for a form of universal healthcare, what they’re dubbing WeCare.
“We would probably want to give the community some time to absorb this first the potential bond issuance and then start a conversation,” says Torres. “That’s not something to rush.”
If this WeCare program, along with the new outpatient facility, succeeds, Torres is certain GMH will become a revenue-generating facility. WeCare and the tax hikes that go with it is off the table, for now. The focus right now, Torres says, is to take advantage of favorable market conditions.