Bills To Fund Guam Police Overtime, Election Tabulation Passed

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Medicaid funding measure also being discussed

By Dance Aoki

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, July 8, 2014) – The island's elected leaders yesterday passed one bill during legislative session and amended another during special session that would appropriate millions of dollars toward a Medicaid shortfall.

Lawmakers yesterday passed Bill 377, which appropriates money to pay for Guam Police Department officers' overtime and a new ballot tabulator system for the Guam Election Commission.

The funds would come from fiscal 2014 revenues, with more than $206,000 for tabulators and $668,000 in GPD overtime.

During session, lawmakers discussed the bill introduced by Sen. Rory Respicio, D-Agana Heights, which originally authorized only the release of funds for tabulators.

Lawmakers combined the bill with Bill 378, introduced by Sen. Brant McCreadie, R-Agana Heights, that would amend language in Public Law 179 from "authorize" to "appropriate" for money from the same source for GPD overtime.

The bill passed unanimously, except for the votes of Sen. Ben Pangelinan, D-Barrigada, and Sen. Michael San Nicolas, D-Dededo, who were excused.

Medicaid shortfall

Later in the afternoon, senators discussed Bill 359 during a special session, which would appropriate $6 million in local money to Medicaid.

With federal matching dollars, the net impact on the shortfall is approximately $14 million.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Dennis Rodriguez, D-Dededo, would cover medical expenses of patients with Medicaid insurance.

Representatives from the Department of Public Health and Social Services and the Guam Economic Development Authority answered questions from senators as lawmakers amended the bill.

The largest chunk of Medicaid funds, about 38 percent, goes to patients who received care at Guam Memorial Hospital, according to Tess Archangel, director of the Public Welfare Division at Public Health, who oversees Medicaid and Medically Indigent Program.

Archangel told lawmakers that Public Health owed Guam Memorial Hospital $2.7 million for processed Medicaid claims as of June 30, and another $5 million in claims that have yet to be processed.

But, Archangel said the hospital will likely need another $8 million to cover Medicaid claims through the rest of the fiscal year for the hospital alone.

And the total shortfall for all Medicaid claims this fiscal year is estimated at $22 million.

The funding for Rodriguez's proposed bill would come from millions in untapped funds GEDA identified in the Tobacco Mass Settlement Agreement Bonds, almost $9 million awarded to Guam years ago as a result of lawsuits against the tobacco industry.

The Legislature must appropriate the use of this money, and in the past, interest accumulating in the fund paid for improvements to the hospital and the construction of the Southern Region Community Health Center.

The one-time appropriation outlined in the proposed bill would use almost all money in the fund for the Medicaid shortfall.

Lawmakers proposed amendments to the bill for several hours, including language that would ensure the legality of the appropriation, and ensured some of the funds set aside for a new Non-Communicable Disease Consortium health and wellness program included children and families raising children.

The special session recessed until noon today and discussion on the Medicaid bill will continue.

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