Public hearing on Bill 78 reveals good news and bad news

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(PNC photo)

Guam – It was good timing for Senator Therese Terlaje’s legislative committee on health.

Just as the senator was holding a public hearing on her Bill 78-35, news broke that the U.S. House of Representatives finally passed the long delayed Disaster Aid Act.

The congressional bill allows Guam to draw down from available Affordable Care Act (ACA) funds without having to put up a local match.

And this was precisely the subject area of the public hearing for Bill 78, authored by Terlaje, which seeks to appropriate general fund revenues for Medicaid local matching requirements.

Maria Teresa Archangel, chief administrator for the public welfare division of the Department of Public Health and Social Services, and DPHSS deputy director Lori Duenas testified during the public hearing.

The two testified in support of the bill, saying that the funding is badly needed because Guam’s Medicaid bill is rising.

Archangel said last year’s Medicaid program expenditure was $110.8 million dollars which was much higher than the fiscal year 2014 total, which was only $8.3 million dollars.

And the Medicaid program expenditure is continuing  to grow this year.

Archangel said that only recently, the Guam Regional Medical City submitted a total charge of $40.7 million dollars in Medicaid claims.

Although there was good news about the passage of the Disaster Aid Act, Archangel said Guam is not out of the woods yet. There is also bad news because the government’s Medically Indigent Program, or MIP, also needs additional funding.

According to Archangel, they still have about $3 million dollars under MIP that needs to be processed.

This was confirmed by Terlaje during an interview at the K-57 Andrea Pellacani show.

“In addition to the Medicaid shortfall, there is also an MIP shortfall. Medicaid covers a certain group of people and those who are not covered by Medicaid are covered by MIP. Public Health says they already have $3 million dollars in MIP claims that are unprocessed and they only have 400 to 500 thousand dollars available. So they’re saying that even if this disaster aid bill is signed into law and the $5.6 million is not necessary for Medicaid, it will still be needed for MIP,” Terlaje said.

The senator added that the money coming to Guam if the disaster aid bill is passed into law, will most likely just be used to settle claims.