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Bill 513 vetoed by Tenorio

by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - Backed by an attorney general's opinion along with an independent actuary showing the measure would drive up costs of government employees and retirees, Acting Governor Ray Tenorio vetoed Bill 513 today. The legislation, which proposes sweeping changes on how to procure Government of Guam health insurance, was introduced and passed all within two weeks.

After careful review and consideration, Tenorio vetoed the bill, which had purported to be the solution for the public sector's Fiscal Year 2013 health insurance contract by offering multiple carriers. Governor's chief policy advisor Arthur Clark said, "The bill was just chocked full of assumptions that really have no foundation. There were financial assumptions, factual assumptions, legal assumptions that are really without foundation, and that bore itself out."

The measure, introduced by Senator Ben Pangelinan, passed on October 1 straight down party lines. Republicans voted against its passage based on concerns over the current stay in the health insurance negotiation process and appeals that were pending. Clark said, "And then this law now coming into play in the middle of all that just confuses the whole issue. As a matter of fact, the AG's opinion pretty much opines that this law is legally unenforceable because of this impending appeal."

Clark sites the attorney general's opinion along with a Hay Group memorandum that outlined several inconsistencies. Chief Deputy Attorney General Phil Tydingco met with Senator Pangelinan just hours before the Democrats passed the bill, expressing his concerns about the measure and asked for more time to review its legal ramifications. "And all of that was ignored," said Clark.

Two days after the bill was passed, Tydingco felt compelled to write a letter to lawmakers to express in writing his concerns about Bill 513, he outlined many of the problems he found with the measure. Clark said, "One of those deficiencies being the affect that the existing procurement process and the appeals has on the ability to even move forward with this bill; essentially until that's resolved, this bill is illegal. It's unenforceable."

The Hay Group study meanwhile focused more on the economic issues involved with the bill, which Tenorio pointed out in his veto message, saying it would actually result in an increase in the cost to retirees especially over the age of 65 and that the possibility of overpaying by the employees was huge.

Clark maintains the bill tries to fix a problem that doesn't exist noting how the legislative findings in Bill 513 raised concern over the then-pending lapse and termination of the 2012 health insurance contract which he says was factually inaccurate because an extension agreement was negotiated resulting in the same rates with no impact to employees. "So the urgency that was supposed to be the impotence for this bill, simply just didn't exist."

According to Tenorio, there are three weeks until the election and "all of this phony concern and so - obvious rush to score political points at the expense of your pocketbooks will end the evening of November 6."

KUAM News called Senator Pangelinan's office for his reaction - we are waiting for his response.

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