August 16, 2018

Hagåtña – At first glance, it looks like the Guam Memorial Hospital is fully funded the $30 million that’s been under discussion for years now. 

A closer look paints a different story. 

Bill 323 doesn’t give the Guam Memorial Hospital a dedicated funding source. Further, it fails to provide the $30 million needed, and plays a shell game that compromises Medicaid – or at the very least restricts our government’s ability to leverage local monies in a way that garners federal match funds. 

Sen. Michael San Nicolas had recommended this “fix” during a budget hearing for our island’s only public hospital. GMH Chief Financial Officer Benita Manglona warned him that he’s confusing two different issues in a way that would have a negative impact to Medicaid funding. 

He responded: “You’re the CFO of GMH. Worry about GMH … Let the policy makers worry about the policy.” 

Perhaps Sen. San Nicolas worried about it. But he certainly didn’t fix the problem. If anything, he gives the problem to the Governor to fix. 

Bill 323-34 takes what is typically used for the Medicaid match and gives the Governor the responsibility of determining whether that entire amount be used to subsidize GMH. Essentially, it forces Governor Calvo to choose between operations at the island’s only public hospital, or revenues for Medicaid services provided by GMH. 

This bill limits the amount of monies available for the local match to Medicaid funds. 

There were over 9,000 Medicaid patients treated at GMH just last year. What is GMH going to do about the 9,000 patients now? GMH cannot turn away a single patient, and will be stuck with uncollectible bills. Moreover, we lose federal match monies for Medicaid. 

It’s unclear where Sen. Dennis Rodriguez and Sen. Frank Aguon stand on this provision. Sen. Aguon, a long-term Senator, previously held oversight over GMH, and Sen. Rodriguez, who currently has oversight, has been holding the position for eight years. 

“We’ve been talking about GMH for almost four years now. What is Senator Rodriguez doing to ensure that we are taking the opportunity to maximize our Medicaid, and federal funding? How can Sen. Rodriguez allow for Medicare & Medicaid to go unfunded – which is what is currently written in Bill 323,” stated Governor Eddie Calvo. 

Confusion reigned during the budget session with more than 100 amendments, many of which were voted into the bill, only to be voted out later. This confusion as well as the lack of funding for our island’s only public hospital, would have been avoided if senators hadn’t followed Sen. San Nicolas’ lead in repealing a law that led to a more stable government, and provided a dedicated funding source for GMH as well as Guam Department of Education. 

For years, Governor Calvo has offered several pieces of legislation that would have addressed these issues, while also upgrading the facilities and allowing GMH to make the improvements it needs to provide quality care to the people of Guam. However, this has all fallen on deaf ears. 

The Administration’s fiscal team will continue to review the budget bill in hopes there are other provisions that may ensure the hospital gets the funding it needs, and if not, shortchanged every other year.

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