U.S. TERRITORIES IN LINE FOR MAJOR HEALTH

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House OKs health care reform bill

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Nov. 9, 2009) - GUAM and other territories stand to receive $10.35 billion in new funding for Medicaid under a sweeping healthcare reform bill, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 220-215 on Saturday.

"H.R. 3962 puts Guam on a path toward full Medicaid funding and removes the Medicaid cap within the nine year cycle or by 2020 at the latest," Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo said in a press statement following the passage of H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act.

The trillion dollar healthcare package, which proposes the biggest expansion of insurance to Americans, also offers the territories the option to either join in a health care exchange or use alternative local solutions to provide coverage to the uninsured.

For Guam, the bill assures increased Medicaid funding from $16 million in fiscal year 2010 to $47 million in fiscal year 2011.

H.R. 3962 also provides $4 billion in additional funding to territorial governments specifically for participation in the exchange.

"I was successful in inserting a provision into the Manager’s Amendment that authorizes the governors of the territories the option to include citizens of the Freely Associated States in the federal Medicaid program," Bordallo said.

The U.S. Senate is currently working on its version of healthcare reform, which illustrates the huge divide that remains between the Republicans and the Democrats.

Most Republicans are particularly opposed to the proposed creation of a government-run insurance option as an alternative to private insurance companies, which they say is an excessive government intervention into healthcare.

Bordallo, meanwhile, said H.R. 3962 closes the gap in Medicaid funding for Guam and the other territories.

"H.R. 3962 is an important step forward to addressing the problem of rising health care costs for individuals and families," the congresswoman added.

Under the House version of the bill, each additional year from 2011 to 2019, Guam’s Medicaid program will receive an additional $3 million. In fiscal year 2019, Medicaid funding will be $71 million, according to Bordallo said.

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