by Mindy Aguon
Guam - The Judiciary of Guam's decision to not participate in the Government of Guam's group health plan continues to raise concern.
The Judiciary has opted to choose its own health insurance carrier, however, this plan would exclude their retirees. The Department of Administration has since sent the Judiciary a letter saying the exclusion of retirees goes against local law and requested the Judiciary to answer how they plan to remedy the matter.
Governor's director of communications Troy Torres said, "On that note, I know our legal counsel is working on a letter to the Attorney General right now, asking what can be done on this situation because we can't just leave these retirees out in the cold."
Torres says it's the courts' prerogative to challenge Subsection 4301-d of Title IV of public law that provides for the Judiciary to ensure that their insurance coverage covers retirees.
Court policy, planning and communications director Josh Tenorio meanwhile tells KUAM that the Judiciary does not agree with DOA's letter and its legal consul is drafting an appropriate response.
In a response late Tuesday afternoon, the Judiciary's legal counsel B. Ann Keith writes the judiciary is "appalled that the Department of Administration has indicated its intention to refuse health insurance to Judiciary of Guam retirees, claiming that this decision is based on the notice given by Chief Justice Carbullido of the judiciary's intent to enter into a separate health insurance contract."
Keith further notes as the basis of this decision, DOA relied on Guam statutes which the Judiciary says "nothing in this statute requires that DOA refuse to provide health insurance to Judiciary retirees" nor does it mandate that retirees be taken out of that same pool of insured retirees that they have been in.
In the letter, Keith says Judiciary retirees are Government of Guam retirees, and as such, they have always been included in the Legislature's appropriation to the Government of Guam Retirement Fund for health insurance to be given to retirees. She further states the judiciary has never received a separate appropriation to fund any obligations to its retirees, and has never been singled out as having an obligation for its retirees benefits.
The Judiciary further state that assumptions that the judiciary is "cutting loose" retirees in order to secure better insurance rates was false. Keith says DOA's letter has led to the mischaracterization of the Judiciary's conduct as "feeding them to the sharks". They further urge for the sake of the retirees to correct this misconception.