Pacific Daily News

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Nov. 17, 2009) - Yearly compact-impact reimbursements from the federal government to Guam continue to fall short of the actual cost of providing health care to migrants from the Freely Associated States.

This has put an enormous strain on the island's already stretched health-care system, specifically at the Guam Memorial Hospital. As the island's only civilian hospital, GMH can't deny care and services for any reasons.

And as we sit on the cusp of a buildup that promises to strain our resources even more, it's time the disparity is resolved.

Our elected leaders -- from Gov. Felix Camacho to the Legislature and Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo -- need to lobby Congress and the Obama administration for full reimbursement of costs associated with providing services to migrants from the Freely Associated States, which includes the FSM, the Marshall Islands and the Republic of Palau.

If it can't commit to full reimbursement, the federal government should be required to provide health-care services to compact migrants at federal medical facilities, such as Naval Hospital in Agana Heights and base clinics.

It isn't right for the government of Guam to shoulder the cost of providing such services when it was the compact that authorized unrestricted immigration into the United States and its territories. That deal came with inadequate funding for Guam or the other affected territories.

Many FSM citizens come to Guam because they lack educational and health-care options at home. The number of Micronesian migrants on Guam increased 86 percent between 2003 and 2008, according to the preliminary results of a U.S. Census Bureau survey.

The survey found that Guam is now home to 18,305 migrants from the Freely Associated States.

That means more than half of 32,635 FAS migrants chose to live on Guam. About 12,215 of them live in Hawaii, 2,100 in the Northern Marianas and 15 in American Samoa.

According to the Bureau of Statistics and Planning, Guam currently receives 47 percent, or $14.2 million of the $30 million compact-impact aid. Three other jurisdictions share the rest of the money, with Hawaii getting $10.5 million, the Northern Marianas $5.2 million and American Samoa about $20,000 a year.

In a January 2008 report, GovGuam said the island had $132 million in unpaid compact-impact costs for fiscal years 2004 to 2007. In another report released in April 2004, the government said the federal government failed to pay $269 million in compact-impact costs from 1986 to 2003.

This situation is unacceptable and can't be allowed to continue. The compact essentially allows FAS migrants, many of whom have limited financial resources or no ability to pay at all, unrestricted access to health care at the hospital.

The federal government promised FAS citizens the opportunity to live and work in the United States. It needs to live up to that promise by fully covering the costs of health-care services to compact migrants or it must open Naval Hospital and other federal facilities to serve them.

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