Medicaid bill makes progress in Congress


A bill that can help provide more funding for Guam’s healthcare by increasing the island’s Medicaid cap is making progress in the U.S. Congress.

H.R. 3631, the “Territories Health Care Improvement Act,” introduced by Rep. Darren Soto and co-sponsored by Guam Congressman Michael San Nicolas, has passed through its mark-up hearing and has been favorably forwarded to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce without any amendments.

“With this measure, we will give our Medicaid funding levels a soft landing, giving our local government a chance to prioritize healthcare over time to finally get it right for our people,” San Nicolas said.

H.R. 3631 aims to increase the limit on Medicaid payments and the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) for Guam as well as Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Senator Regine Biscoe Lee, who chairs the Guam Legislature’s federal affairs committee, had expressed her support for H.R. 3631 and written a letter of endorsement to Rep. Anna G. Eshoo, chairwoman of the House subcommittee on health, as well as Rep. Michael C. Burgess, a ranking member of the committee.

“When people delay care because they can’t afford it, that care almost always becomes more complex—and yes—more expensive down the road. This is why H.R. 3631, and measures like it which seek to dramatically increase our FMAP percentage or provide parity among Americans, are so important to Guam and her people,” wrote Lee.

There is a similar bill in the U.S. Senate that would correct long-standing inequities in federal health care funding for Medicaid and Medicare and gives Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands and other U.S. territories access to the health care they need.

Called the Territories Health Equity Act of 2019, S.1773 eliminates the arbitrary cap on annual federal Medicaid funding and increases the federal matching rate for the territories’ Medicaid expenditures.