Thursday, April 08, 2010

Healthcare Reform Too Vague for Many on Guam

Healthcare reform too vague for many.
Thursday, 08 April 2010
by Therese Hart
Marianas Variety News Staff

CONTINUING discussions on President Obama’s national healthcare reform package have produced more questions than answers.

At last night’s meeting held by the Guam Medical Association, local physicians raised questions to Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo, but she said many of their inquiries will be answered once the new law is ironed out.

Even federal government entities such as the U.S. Department of Public Health and Human Services has asked Guam’s Department of Public Health and Social Services to wait for more guidance on how the new legislation will affect Guam.

“The healthcare reform legislation is still being reviewed and analyzed by staff in our Baltimore Central Office, and we have been asked to hold off on providing guidance and answering questions at the regional level while Central Office staff carefully review the legislation,” federal health department representative Brian Zolynas stated in a letter to Tess Arcangel of the local health department.

Physicians asked about Guam’s choice of opting into the new health insurance exchanges.

Kin Perez from Bordallo’s office said if Guam decides to opt in, Guam can develop its own insurance exchange, which is currently being discussed by several local insurance companies with the government of Guam.

He added that Guam can choose to opt in with Hawaii, which, however, will affect current rates since Hawaii rates are higher than Guam.

The health insurance companies are asking GovGuam for assistance because Guam leaders—and not the insurance companies—will make the decision whether or not to opt in to the plan.

The companies have asked the government to create the high-risk insurance pool, because Guam currently doesn’t have one.

“This is going to cause all kinds of problems because it becomes effective within 90 days,” Perez said.

The high-risk insurance pool will be created within 90 days for people with existing medical conditions. The pool, backed by $5 billion in federal money, will offer subsidized premiums to people who have been uninsured for at least six months and have yet-to-be-defined medical problems.

Bordallo said local physicians are asking the same questions raised by their counterparts in the every state and that it will take time to clarify all the details.

She assured the doctors that Guam has time to get all its questions answered by 2014, the deadline for opting in or out of the new health insurance exchange.

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