Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that in light of the recent historic signing of comprehensive healthcare reform in the United States, he urges the American Samoa Government (ASG) to create a territorial plan to address American Samoa’s healthcare needs.
“After 100 years of effort to reform the national healthcare system, it finally became a reality this past Tuesday, March 23, 2010, when President Obama signed it into law. Subsequently on Thursday, March 25, Congress approved further changes that President Obama is expected to sign in the next few days,” Faleomavaega said.
“This epic turn of events in the history of the United States highlights the responsibility to extend affordable and high quality healthcare to all Americans. Among other things, the new healthcare law reduces the deficit by $143 billion over the next ten years; extends coverage to 32 million more Americans; establishes a purchasing pool that will give the individual choice and competition thus resulting in cheaper health insurance costs; and mandates that no individual is denied insurance coverage based on pre-existing conditions.”
“For American Samoa, the new health care reform will result in an increase in federal funding for the Territory’s Medicaid program and a 5 % increase in the Federal Matching Assistance Percentage (FMAP) rate, or the federal government’s share of Medicaid costs. American Samoa will be eligible for: more than $180 million over 9 years in Medicaid funding; the choice to participate in the Exchange program; and many of the consumer protection provisions that are available to the States. And I want to commend my fellow territorial Delegates for working hand-in-hand on these important issues.”
“The additional dollars in Medicaid funding will add to the already considerable federal share of all medical expenditures in American Samoa’s healthcare system. For example, over the past five years, the federal government has provided an estimated $133.6 million to the operations of LBJ Hospital while the local government provided $19.4 million in local funds. This disparity between federal and local funding highlights some of the unique challenges facing our healthcare system.”
“On June 22, 2009, I wrote a letter to the leaders and members of the Fono concerning the completion of a comprehensive healthcare report, which describes the findings of a three-year study to examine and review American Samoa’s healthcare system. The federal government provided $1.2 million in grant funding to conduct the study, and special credit should be given to Lt. Governor Faoa Sunia and Mr. Keniseli Lafaele for their hard work in this endeavor. Unfortunately, the report was issued in 2007 and our local government has not taken any action on the recommendations of the report,” Faleomavaega said.
“In a recent discussion I had with the former LBJ CEO, Patricia Tindall, she made an observation to the effect that the healthcare system in American Samoa is “fragmented”. This is evident by the fact that healthcare services are provided primarily through LBJ. Meanwhile, there is no structural framework for partnership among all the entities providing healthcare services in the Territory.”
“Furthermore, according to recent studies, it is estimated that chronic diseases account for almost 75% of all healthcare costs. And because of the increasing rate of chronic diseases, it seems to me that preventive healthcare should be our highest priority. But nowhere are ASG’s healthcare priorities or any health policy clearly stated.”
“Considering the significant events of this past week in Washington, I believe this is the moment for our Fono leaders and members to take decisive action and pursue an affordable, high quality healthcare system for the Territory. And the best way to begin the process now is for the Fono to conduct oversight hearings on the 2007 Healthcare Report, and develop legislation that will address our Territory’s healthcare system,” Faleomavaega concluded.