Expanded GovGuam Insurance Provider Bill Voted Down

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Governor characterizes bill as ‘fiscally, actuarially impossible’

By Louella Losinio

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Marianas Variety Guam, May 16, 2013) – A veto override for Bill 81, the measure seeking to broaden health insurance options for government of Guam employees and retirees, failed to pass during yesterday’s session at the Legislature.

Bill 81, introduced by Sen. Vicente "Ben" Pangelinan and Vice Speaker Benjamin J.F. Cruz, gained the support of the majority of the Democratic senators, eight of whom voted in support of the override. However, Democratic Sen. Dennis Rodriguez voted against the measure, along with the seven Republican senators.

Prior to the voting, Pangelinan said: "Once again we are here to try to present an opportunity for GovGuam employees to... have a choice in the healthcare services that they will have available for their families."

Calvo’s SelectCare currently provides the health insurance requirements for GovGuam employees. During an earlier public hearing, the company signified its opposition to the bill, saying having more health insurance carriers offers competition but would also create volatility in the insurance market.

Lawmakers passed the measure on April 22. But on May 2, Gov. Eddie Calvo vetoed the bill.

In his veto message, Calvo said: "It is fiscally irresponsible. It is mathematically and actuarially impossible. It abandons a proven process for the solicitation and negotiation of the best health insurance plan for the government."

The bill, Calvo added, introduces an unacceptable level of uncertainty in the procurement of health insurance for the government of Guam.

"This administration will not enact legislation that increases the uncertainty and the cost of necessities on our man'Ã¥mko' and on our hardworking employees," the governor said.

But Pangelinan, during yesterday’s session, said the bill is not about him, nor about SelectCare or the governor.

"This is about what this government wants to do, how it wants to do it, and how much it wants to do it for in the provision of health insurance services for their families, retirees and employees. I sincerely mean that. Unfortunately, the governor, in his veto message, wants to make it about me. He said things in his veto message which are unrelated to the subject matter of the bill," Pangelinan said.

Choices

According to Pangelinan, every single health insurance market has an opportunity to choose except the government of Guam health insurance program.

"Today we have a health insurance program with only one choice for the government of Guam employees. There is no opportunity to make any other choices among health insurance companies that are available on the island who are providing insurance to thousands of private sector workers," the senator said.

Bill 81, Pangelinan stressed, guarantees a choice through a process indicated in the bill.

Moreover, Pangelinan said Bill 81 sets a cap on premiums so it is lower than current premiums, with only qualified bidders that are licensed to do business on Guam eligible to submit a bid.

In addition, any eligible bidder whose bid is lower than the premium cap of $68 million will be automatically accepted as the health insurance provider.

The bill also allows employees and retirees to receive money for use in health savings accounts and health reimbursement accounts to help alleviate the large deductibles required with the current plan.

The $68 million cap, Pangelinan said, is almost $5 million below what the government is currently spending for health insurance.

According to the bill, GovGuam is not in a position to continue "overpaying" annual medical and dental premiums in excess of $5 million a year, which takes income out of the pockets of government employees and retirees every pay period, creating hardship for families and presenting unnecessary financial burdens on the government.

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