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Healthcare insurers talk about Obamacare

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 by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - With Health and Human Services' recent announcement regarding Obamacare in the territories, what does that mean here at home?

Staywell's Francis Santos says news from the nation's capital was years in the making. "From the insurance company guys, we're very excited that something finally came down we've been waiting almost two and a half, three years for some kind of relief because of the way ObamaCare act affected the territories," he said.

As we reported last week, insurance commissioner Art Illagan was informed by the US Department of Health and Human Services that the territories including Guam was exempt from implementing certain provisions within Obamacare. This came after several letters and even a legislative resolution expressing concern about the negative effects it would have on Guam. 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 which would have resulted in an increase in premiums.

Santos said, "It was projected to go from anywhere from 50-100% and of course who would want to face that kind of increase, and we'll have people basically not buying our programs."

Frank Campillo from Calvo's Selectcare agrees, saying, "What this does is mitigate potential rate increases correct and and will help the market continue to be competitive and continue to flourish."

Campillo says without the news, Obamacare could have been harmful to the industry especially in the territories. "The belief so far the change is good one of the things we're doing now is we're having our legal counsels review what exactly are the changes that are going to waived from the island 0138 its too premature to really decide the actual impact," he said.

One of those changes includes certain provisions in Obamacare that no longer will apply including essential health benefits. However, according to Campillo, while his legal team continues to review the exemptions, the one related to dependent coverage of adult children up to the age of 26 seems feasible. Campillo said, "So I think the age 26, the fact that people are getting preventative services without a co-payment, I think those will remain in place because simply the market has gotten used to it for the past two years."

Santos says it appears the same would apply with Staywell. He says for now, the island's carriers need to get together to discuss how to move forward. In fact a meeting with Illagan along with Committee on Health chair Senator Dennis Rodriguez Jr. is set for this week. "And I think if we just sit down with the insurance commissioner and say look let's take a look at this and see what we can do as the industry to help our members," said Santos.

Netcare's Jerry Crisostomo meanwhile says the response from HHS is positive. He says the biggest concern was implementing the new market reforms that were set to go into effect at the beginning of this year. He says now the exemptions may help in making rates and premiums more affordable. Takecare's Jeff Larsen wasn't available for an on camera interview but tells KUAM News the announcement is "encouraging" and that it signifies that HHS has recognized the disparities with the territories. Larsen adds there is still a fair amount of analysis that needs to be put together. 

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