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Washington responds to concerns about Obamacare

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 by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - Officials on Guam have made it no secret of their concerns over the implementation of the Affordable Care Act on Guam. And after several letters and even a legislative resolution, it appears the island along with the territories have finally received a response from the Obama Administration.

In the past year, Art Ilagan has written letters as part of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners over concerns with the legislation also known as Obamacare. He and dozens of NAIC members even met with the president to discuss the challenges. And this week, the Department of Health and Human Services finally responded. "So what they did is they reversed for the territories the enabling act of the ACA to the territories so what that means is the people of Guam don't have to pay for the rate increases that would happen to them because of the way the affordable care act applies to the territories," he said.

As we reported, the ACA required Guam to implement the market reforms or the essential health benefits, but did not provide the subsidies and mandates to make it work. llagan says in order to carry out Obamacare, rates or premiums would have to increase possibly up to 55%. "It's something that Guam needed to look at because it was going to negatively impact the people of Guam," he explained.

One of the other concerns about Obamacare was how its definition of a state does not include Guam, which made the implementation even more difficult. "When they don't give the subsidies to the territories, the citizens of Guam, but they give it to the citizens of the continental United States and there's some issues, I feel are not fair," he said.

In the letter, HHS notes the new provisions of the Public Health Service Act are appropriately governed by the definition of a state and therefore these new provisions do not apply to the territories. This means several ACA requirements will not apply to individual or group health insurance issuers in the US territories including essential health benefits. One of those health benefits include requiring plans and issuers that offer dependent coverage to make the coverage available until the adult child reaches the age of 26.

"The benefits of the ACA doesn't apply to the territories," he said.

In the next week, Ilagan will be meeting with the insurance companies to discuss what happens next, saying, "We are going to meet with the Health insurance industry to discuss those issues and what to expect and voice their concerns on these issues that they are already implementing and see if we can move forward from there."
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