Health insurance choice bill for GovGuam employees moved to voting file

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A revised health care choice bill has been moved to the voting file.

Sen. Jose ‘Pedo’ Terlaje’s measure has been on a rollercoaster ride since the current session began on June 1.

Bill No. 255-35 was debated for much of last week. It would have allowed GovGuam employees to choose from two health insurance providers, instead of the single “most economical and beneficial” plan authorized under current law. At one point, it was set aside last week, then it was revived. But last Friday, Terlaje decided to pull it back from the floor saying he “was forced to withdraw” it after what he said was an attempt “to sabotage” it by other senators

A revised version of the choice bill ended up back on the agenda Monday under a different number, Bill 366-35.

Speaker Tina Muna Barnes waived the public hearing requirement on the bill that she is a co-sponsor of. No fiscal note is posted with the measure which might indicate what the cost might be to Guam taxpayers of restoring a choice of health care providers.

The current law which Bill 366 seeks to overturn was authored by former speaker and current public auditor Benjamin Cruz who sought to rein in runaway health insurance costs for the roughly 11,000 GovGuam employees and their families.

Bill 366 was moved to the voting file Tuesday without objection.

At a time when tax collections are falling in the face of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the measure could increase GovGuam’s health insurance costs by roughly $11 million, according to Department of Administration Director Edward Birn who spoke with K-57’s Patti Arroyo this morning.

However, in a news release, Sen. Terlaje said:  “I recognize the financial challenges we have right now and that is why the bill has safeguards to ensure it will not impact next fiscal year’s budget and shifts the cost away from taxpayers.”  (Read his news release in full below).

Sen. Terlaje’s revised proposal would still require the Governor to name the most economical and beneficial health plan, but two providers would still be available for GovGuam employees to choose from. If any employee selected the higher-priced plan option, they would have to cover the higher premium cost themselves, not the taxpayer.

The GovGuam health insurance contract is the single largest procurement for GovGuam every year. The current contract with Aetna insurance exceeds $100 million.

If passed by lawmakers and signed into law by the Governor, the additional costs would be borne by all Guam taxpayers, many of whom cannot afford health insurance for themselves.

Session resumes at 10 a.m. this morning.

Items Discussed Tuesday and Moved to the Voting File:

  1. Bill No. 323-35 (COR) As amended on the Floor. – Joe S. San Agustin, Tina Rose Muña Barnes, Régine Biscoe Lee, Telena Cruz Nelson, Amanda L. Shelton, Clynton E. Ridgell, Kelly Marsh (Taitano), Ph.D., Louise Borja Muña, Jose ‘Pedo’ Terlaje, William M. Castro, Mary Camacho Torres AN ACT TO AMEND § 26203.2 OF ARTICLE 2, CHAPTER 26, TITLE 11, GUAM CODE ANNOTATED, RELATIVE TO PROVIDING LIMITED EXEMPTIONS TO SMALL BUSINESSES UNDER THE “DAVE SANTOS SMALL BUSINESS ENHANCEMENT ACT” TO MITIGATE IMPACTS RESULTING FROM THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC.

  2. Bill No. 366-35 (LS) As substituted; and amended on the Floor. – Jose “Pedo” Terlaje, Tina Rose Muña Barnes AN ACT TO REPEAL AND REENACT § 4301(a) AND §4302(c)(2), BOTH OF ARTICLE 3, CHAPTER 4, TITLE 4, GUAM CODE ANNOTATED TO ALLOW CHOICE FOR SUBSCRIBERS THAT PARTICIPATE IN THE GOVERNMENT OF GUAM HEALTH INSURANCE CONTRACT.

  3. Bill No. 241-35 (COR) As amended by the Committee on Heritage and the Arts, Parks, Guam Products, Hagåtña-Revitalization, Self-Determination, and Regional Affairs; and further amended on the Floor. – Kelly Marsh, PhD, Jose “Pedo” Terlaje, Tina Rose Muña Barnes, Telena Cruz Nelson, Clynton E. Ridgell. AN ACT TO ADD A NEW § 72110 TO CHAPTER 72, TITLE 10, GUAM CODE ANNOTATED, RELATIVE TO CREATING AND IMPLEMENTING A RIP CURRENT AND HIKING SAFETY AWARENESS PROGRAM AND
    OUTREACH PLAN.

  4. Bill No. 214-35 (LS) As substituted and amended on the Floor. – Mary Camacho Torres, Telena Cruz Nelson, Tina Rose Muña Barnes, Régine Biscoe Lee. AN ACT TO ADD A NEW ARTICLE 5 TO CHAPTER 48, TITLE 21 OF THE GUAM CODE ANNOTATED, RELATIVE TO PROVIDING LEASE PROTECTIONS FOR TENANTS WHO ARE VICTIMS OF FAMILY
    VIOLENCE, CRIMINAL SEXUAL ASSAULT, OR STALKING; AND TO FURTHER CITING THIS ACT AS THE “GUAM SAFE HOUSING ACT OF 2020″

Nominations in the Voting File

  1. The nomination of Robert C. Taitano to serve as a Member of the Civil Service Commission.
  2. The nomination of Dana A. Gutierrez to serve as a Judge of the Superior Court of Guam.
  3. The nomination of UM Dreama Asor to serve as a Member of the Department of Parks & Recreation Commission.
  4. The nomination of Rolando C. Zepeda to serve as a Member (Visual Arts) of the Guam Council on the Arts & Humanities Agency.
  5. The nomination of Anisia Delia to serve as a Member of the Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority, Board of Commissioners.
  6. The nomination of Dr. Anita B. Enriquez to serve as a Member of the Guam Land Use Commission.
  7. The nomination of Louisa M. Wessling to serve as a Member of the Guam Ancestral Lands Commission.

Items Pending Discussion:

  1. Bill No. 252-35 (COR) – Amanda L. Shelton, Joe S. San Agustin
    AN ACT TO APPROPRIATE FOUR HUNDRED THIRTY-THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS ($433,000) FROM THE EARNINGS OF THE UOG HIGHER EDUCATION ENDOWMENT FUND TO THE UNIVERSITY OF GUAM PURSUANT TO §221305 OF ARTICLE 13 OF CHAPTER 22 OF TITLE 5 OF THE GUAM CODE ANNOTATED. *Placed on Session Agenda – 6/8/20

Items Set Aside:
1. Bill No. 71-35 (LS) – James C. Moylan – AN ACT TO AMEND §5101, §5105, §5107, §5109, §5112(a)(3), AND §5114, AND TO ADD §5119, ALL TO CHAPTER 5 OF TITLE 16, GUAM CODE ANNOTATED, RELATIVE TO THE SIZE, WEIGHT, AND LOAD LIMITATIONS, AND RESTRICTIONS OF CERTAIN VEHICLES. *Bill set aside – 6.3.20

READ the release from Senator Terlaje in FULL below:

Bill 366-45 (LS) for Health Insurance Choice Moves to Voting File

(Hagatna)  Senator Jose “Pedo” Terlaje’s Bill 366-35 (LS), which provides for health insurance choice, was moved to the voting file today on session floor without objection.   Bill 366-35 would provide health insurance choice for Government of Guam employees and their families, which is the single largest coverage network on the island of Guam, for public employees, private sector spouses and dependents, and retirees.   Nearly 12,000 non-employee and non-retiree dependents and foster children are also covered by the plan.  
The bill also does not affect the upcoming fiscal year, preserving existing health insurance negotiations which are happening right now for fiscal year 2021 and removes any budgetary impact from fiscal year 2021 budget.    The bill also places the financial impact of choice upon GovGuam employees and not taxpayers.

“My reason for introducing this bill was simple: to grant those suffering the choice to pick their own doctor, to decide what is best for them and their families,” said Senator Jose “Pedo” Terlaje.   “This bill is important for so many people to ensure many families have the best healthcare plan available to them, including our greatest generation, our manamko’.

“I recognize the financial challenges we have right now and that is why the bill has safeguards to ensure it will not impact next fiscal year’s budget and shifts the cost away from taxpayers,” said Senator Jose “Pedo” Terlaje.  “It is a fiscally responsible choice.”