Governor Calvo wrote a column in the Pacific Daily News (published today) about how insurance companies should pay their fair share of taxes. He wanted these companies — including Calvo’s SelectCare — to pay these taxes so these revenues can fund medical care for the most vulnerable at Guam Memorial Hospital. While the legislation that originally proffered this idea has since been changed, the Governor writes this bill, Bill No. 20, offers a viable funding source for GMH.
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Isn’t It Ironic?
By Eddie Baza Calvo
One of the most ironic turns in recent Guam political history has to do with insurance companies. For the past three years I’ve been silent about the health insurance issues that have come up. I figured the public could see through all the politics and the rhetoric. For the past three years I’ve been accused of protecting my family’s business interests; the rhetoric has grown disparaging while actions from certain senators have become a witch hunt. The fear during the 2010 election was that if I got elected I’d increase payments to Calvo’s SelectCare in the annual health insurance contract.
Well, it’s three years later, and despite all that raucous, the cost of the health insurance contract actually went down by about $8 million. Not only that, it’s my understanding the health insurance negotiating team was about to enter negotiations with three different insurance companies for the FY2013 contract right before all the protests started. I doubt my family ever thought I’d push contracts for them if I got elected; matter of fact, they’re in the untenable (and probably adverse) position of increased scrutiny simply because I’m in office.
No one knows better than my family that I’ve never been one to dole out special favors or tolerate special interests while I’ve been in public office. That’s why it probably came as no surprise to them when I advocated for insurance companies to pay their fair share of taxes — the same taxes many other businesses pay. I mean, why not? Why should insurance companies — including the one my family owns — have a tax exemption that was meant to attract outside captive insurers? Why shouldn’t these companies pay taxes? You pay taxes. I pay taxes. The only companies that should be exempt are those that belong to an industry we’re trying to build up and sustain, like renewable energy, tourism and health care.
This was the gist of the argument behind Sen. Dennis Rodriguez’s original version of Bill No. 20. It would have essentially forced insurance companies to pay their fair share of taxes, and dedicated those revenues to Guam Memorial Hospital. Makes all the sense in the world to me. GMH — while it still needs to do more to run more efficiently — has the awesome responsibility of providing medical care to more residents who are getting more and more sick. The hospital needs this money, yet the insurance companies haven’t been paying the taxes GMH could use to help the most vulnerable among us.
I thought it was a slam dunk. I mean, all these years I’ve been accused by powerful members of the Legislature of protecting my family’s interests, I thought my support for this measure would clear the way for it to happen. Instead the accusers fell silently into the background. Worse, one of them even came out strongly against this proposal, saying we should not require insurance companies to pay their fair share. Who’s the one protecting the insurance companies?
Unfortunately, the bill’s author came under heavy criticism and pressure. Special interests came down hard on the legislature to ensure Bill No. 20 no longer would require insurance companies to pay their fair share of taxes. And the legislator who has accused me most profusely of protecting these special interests is the one person who came to their rescue, while I pushed to tax my own family. Alanis Morissette wrote a song about irony over a decade ago that keeps running through my head as I think about this subject.
When I said three years ago that I would be a governor for all people, and not a pass through for special and personal interests, I meant it. I backed up that promise with action.
Now Bill No. 20 derives its funding source from another revenue stream. While I would have preferred for insurance companies to pay their fair share of taxes, I fully support more funding for GMH. Enough of these political shenanigans. Senators should rally behind this bill because it’s a good bill, with a real funding source, proffering a viable solution to the hospital’s resource needs.
Over the past two years there have been six bills introduced in an effort to vilify me as a politician trying to protect my family’s interests. Let’s see if this one bill — legislation that actually accomplishes something for our people — makes it through the session hall.