Cruz, senators meet about health insurance plan - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Cruz, senators meet about health insurance plan

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by Mindy Aguon

Guam - Concerns regarding the Government of Guam's Fiscal Year 2011 health insurance rates have made their way to Adelup.  This morning a closed-door meeting was held with the acting governor as lawmakers asked him not to sign the plan that goes into effect this Friday. A decision must be made soon as some island residents' lives depend on it.    

"It's urgent because its open enrollment and GovGuam employees, their families, independents can't afford to be with out insurance," George Bamba explained.  The chief of staff for the governor contends it's a life or death situation if the public sector health insurance plan isn't signed soon.  While Open Enrollment for Government of Guam retirees and employees closed today, the new plan that was negotiated several months ago won't take effect until Friday.  

But Speaker Judi Won Pat, who attended a closed door meeting with Senator Frank Blas, Jr. and Acting Governor Mike Cruz this morning, is urging the Administration not to sign the plan. Won Pat said the new plan would require an additional $15 million - $12 million for retirees and $3 million for line agencies. 

She noted, "So that's going to be an additional to the government which was not in the appropriations budget act; the second is that there is a continuing provision that is still in the books and it would not take effect until January 2011, which actually gives us three months to be able to go back and do several things."

Among the options: renegotiate, issue out another RFP, or (the most drastic) GovGuam employees and retirees would have to be self-insured.  Won Pat says the acting governor also expressed similar concerns last month. She adds that the law provides for a carry over provision for three months should a contract not be signed before the end of the week.

While the Camacho Administration has said all branches of government were represented during negotiations between GovGuam and Calvo's SelectCare held two months ago, Won Pat contends the Legislature was not directly involved even though Vince Arriola was the designated representative.  "The representative that we sent was the representative for the employees," said the speaker.  "There's a difference verses a representative from the Legislature.  The negotiation is strictly an executive branch responsibility."

Senator Blas tells KUAM News he is trying to identify the main issues before making a decision on the insurance plan.  Blas says his concern is that the government plans for the last two years were never signed.  It's unclear what impact the lack of signatures will have on the carry over provision of the law and on the new insurance plan that is to take effect on Friday.

The concerns come though just a few days after the Democratic gubernatorial team of former governor Carl Gutierrez and Healthcare Committee chairman Senator Frank Aguon, Jr. wrote a letter to the Administration asking that the plan not be signed and that the negotiation process be scrutinized.  While Governor Felix Camacho is not expected to return to the island until Friday, the acting governor was not available for comment.

His staffer, Carlo Branch, says Cruz won't make a decision until he speaks with Camacho first, telling KUAM News, "You know, we are a team we are trying to find all the implications of signing a contract that could have potentially unwarranted increases we are just trying to figure out all of the plausible ramifications."

"But the governor's chief of staff contends no signature could leave some patients in dire straights, with Bamba saying, "Say like a baby has a heart defect or a pre-existing cancer condition or something like that...they would not be covered."

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