FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – JULY 18, 2014

Rodriguez Meets HHS Officials in DC and Discusses Health Related Matters, Including The New Guidance on PPACA.


(Washington, DC). Health Committee Chairman Senator Dennis G. Rodriguez, Jr. met US Health and Human Services officials in Washington DC today and was provided the HHS response to concerns Guam and other US Territories raised concerning the applicability of certain provisions of the health reform law.

Rodriguez, as chairman of the Guam Legislatures Committee on Health has continuously worked collaboratively with the Insurance Commissioner, health insurance industry officials, Congresswoman Madeline Bordallo, and the Calvo administration in addressing the disparities the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act posed to Guam.

"I have always supported the concept of PPACA’s intent to provide affordable access to care for our people.  However, I have been extremely perplexed at the unbalance treatment Guam and the other territories had to deal with in implementing this law". Rodriguez said.

Over the nearly four years Senator Rodriguez has chaired the legislative health committee, he conducted multiple public and private meetings with stakeholders and residents to ensure the critical information related to this federal law was understood.  Efforts has always centered upon the need to seek fair treatment by the federal government.

Chairman Rodriguez met with HHS officials last year in Washington DC and again today to highlight the importance of the concerns the people of Guam and the territories were addressed. Rodriguez and his colleagues in the 32nd Guam Legislature passed Resolution 316-32 on February 14, 2014, which elevated the island's concerns to former Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the US Congress, and the Obama administration.  Resolution 316-32 sought the federal governments equitable applicability of PPACA to Guam.

The July 16 guidance from HHS basically reverses certain provisions of PPACA's applicability to the territories and Guam, which negates the repeated warning of insurance industry officials of having to increase premiums if certain market reforms were to be required.  “I am concerned that this new interpretation goes further beyond the issues we raised and potentially jeopardizes some other key provisions and benefits that are actually good for our people." Rodriguez said.  “I am also concerned that some other important issues, such as the tax that will be assessed to all local health insurance companies as well as some other issues we presented was not addressed in this guidance.”

Rodriguez has already scheduled a meeting with all stakeholders next week to further discuss this development. “Considering this new HHS guidance, my next step is to work towards ensuring the spirit and intent of PPACA, especially the protections of our consumers is preserved, even if it means that we have to pass local legislation to make it happen.”  Rodriguez concluded.

For further information, contact the office of Senator Dennis G. Rodriguez, Jr.

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Tamuning, Guam-- Senator Dennis G. Rodriguez, Jr., Chairman of the Legislature’s Committee on Health and Human Services and Health Insurance Reform, is announcing that the FY-2015 Guam Group Health Policy survey for government of Guam workers, dependents, and retirees who are interested in health insurance coverage issues is now available online.

 

GovGuam employees can go to www.toduguam.com and click on the survey tab to weigh-in with their input on their coverage plan, selaction preferences, desired schedule of benefits, and costs related issues.  The survey is also available at the Office of Senator Rodriguez, and other accommodations can be made for individuals who wish to participate in the survey.

 

“This is a great opportunity for employees, retirees and dependents to make their voices heard, and be a part of the insurance plan design and negotiation process,” Senator Rodriguez says.

 

The data collected via the survey will help guide Sen. Rodriguez in representing employees, retirees, and dependents during the upcoming negotiations with vendors competing to provide group health coverage to the government of Guam.

 

Under the law, and for the second consecutive year, it is possible that government employees and retirees will again be able to choose from among up to three (3) or more companies for their health insurance coverage;  should the GovGuam Insurance Negotiating Team, after its analysis of all proposals received, determine a non-exclusive contract for group health insurance is the best option for employees, retirees and their dependents.

 

Or, should an Exclucsive offer be determined to be the most fesiable, in that it can provide the best schedule of benefits versus the cost to be incurrend by the employee, then it is imperitive that the scope of the schedule of benefits include the coverage most desired by the employee, and that it be aggressively sought at the best, and fairest, price possible.

 

The 18 question survey is easily and quickly completed, and includes a space for “Additional Comments”. And, it is important to note, your answers will remain completely anonymous.  As in the past, Senator Rodriguez will again share the results with the members of the Government Of Guam Health Insurance Negotiating Team for their consideration, and thereby help to further ensure your concerns and interests are included.

 

“Group health coverage is more than a benefit.  Under our government’s system, it is the means by which individuals and families access quality, affordable healthcare,” says Rodriguez, “and in that regard, it is crucial they have a voice in the process.”  Input from past surveys has resulted in the Senator successfully including benefits and provisions that increase the overall value of the plan, without any additional cost to all taxpayers.  This survey is also an opportunity for you to state your position on how we even conduct the health insurance solicitation process, and help lawmwkers and negotiating team members better determine what changes or refinements, if any, would result in the best possible process.

 

The survey is now available online, and the closing date for participating is July 29, 2014.

 

For additional information please contact the Office of Senator Rodriguez at 649-8638/0511 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

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www.toduguam.com

Tamuning, Guam.  Health Committee Chairman Senator Dennis Rodriguez, Jr.’s says he is looking forward to spirited discussion and passage of Bill 359 when the legislature goes into special session tomorrow.
 
Bill 359 appropriates $6 million dollars in local money to Medicaid, but with federal matching dollars the net impact on the health care funding shortfall is approximately $14 million. 
 
 “This legislation serves a critical need.  It guarantees payment of Medicaid dollars to GMH, to our Community Health Centers, to doctors offices and clinics, to medical suppliers, and to off-island hospitals that are treating patients covered by the Guam Medicaid program.”  Rodriguez said.   "I will further encourage the governor to use any reserve funds being withheld to cover the additional shortfall in order to truly make whole our Medicaid program." Rodriguez added.  Public Health officials have projected an estimated shortfall of $22 million for this fiscal year.
 
Working with GEDA officials who responded to a FOIA request submitted by the Health Chair on May 8, 2014, Senator Rodriguez confirmed there are available funds in the Tobacco Mass Settlement Agreement Bonds –-money that was awarded to Guam as a result of lawsuits against the tobacco industry.
 
Rodriguez hopes that with this infusion of cash, local and off-island providers who may have suspended services to patients of the Medicaid program will resume care. 
 
“One of the long term solutions to our hospitals financial challenges is to ensure we pay our local providers on a timely manner. When private primary care clinics don't participate in the Medicaid or MIP program, our sick brothers and sisters have no choice but to go to the Emergency Room of GMH.  This is expensive, inefficient, and creates financial crisis at the hospital,” Rodriguez said.
 
Rodriguez noted that at the end of the day what is necessary is trust.  To get local and off-island providers to participate in the care of our Medicaid and MIP patients they have to trust that the government of Guam will pay them in a timely manner.
 
Bill 359-32 also provides a $1 million investment to fund health and wellness programs.  Access to these funds is contingent on a  dollar-for-dollar match through grants and/or in kind services from private businesses.  Rodriguez notes that health and wellness programs are a proven component of successfully containing health care costs over time.
 
He points out that Guam is no different than other territories, states, or municipalities in its need to reverse the growth in costly chronic illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
 
Calling their impact “staggering” Rodriguez said we would never break the cycle of health care financial emergencies that require legislation such as Bill 359 if we do not begin to reduce the rate at which these mostly preventable medical conditions occur.  
 
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For more information contact the Office of Senator Dennis Rodriguez, Jr. at 647-8638/0511.
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Toduguam.com is the official website of Senator Dennis G. Rodriguez, Jr., member
I Mina’trentai Dos Na Liheslaturan Guåhan
, 32nd Guam Legislature.

CHAIRMAN, COMMITTEE ON HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES, HEALTH INSURANCE REFORM, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND SENIOR CITIZENS
GMHADISID GuamDMH GuamGEDA
Ufisinan Todu Guam
The Office of Senator Dennis G. Rodriguez, Jr.
176 Serenu Avenue, Tamuning, Guam
Office Hours: M-F 8:00 A.M. - 5:30 P.M.

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