Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he participated in a hearing held by the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Human Rights and Wellness regarding health care disparities in United States Pacific Island Territories. Governor Togiola also participated as did the Governors of Guam and CNMI.
“I want to thank Chairman Dan Burton for holding this hearing and for inviting me to serve as a Subcommittee Member for this most important event,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “I also want to thank the Chairman and Ranking Member for inviting our Pacific Island Governors to participate, and I was especially pleased that Governor Togiola testified at the hearing.”
“Like every other Territory, American Samoa faces serious health care challenges and this is why in March of 2003 I introduced H.R. 1188, a bill to amend the Social Security Act to provide for American Samoa treatment under the Medicaid Program similar to that provided to States.”
“As a matter of record, from FY 1995-2001, I worked with Congress to direct the U.S. Department of Health to appropriate more than $72 million to ASG. For this same time period, I also worked with our friends in Congress to direct the U.S. Department of the Interior to provide ASG with more than $256 million to be used for government operations and capital improvement projects, including health care.”
“For FY2004, and as a result of our efforts to include provisions for the insular areas in the Tax Act of 2003, American Samoa will receive about a 5.9% increase or about $460,000 in Medicaid payments. But, American Samoa, like all other insular areas including Guam, CNMI, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico, has federal ceilings in place that cap the amount of federal assistance we can receive under the Medicaid program.”
“Although I have introduced legislation to specifically address American Samoa’s needs, and although the other Territories have also asked Congress to intervene in their behalf, Congress has hesitated to assist us because of Puerto Rico. Simply put, Puerto Rico has a population of almost 4 million.”
“American Samoa, Guam, CNMI and the U.S. Virgin Islands have populations which range from 60,000 to 150,000. Federal costs to reduce the match and increase the Medicaid ceiling for Pacific Island Territories and the U.S. Virgin Islands would be minimal. However, to assist Puerto Rico, Congress would have to shell out millions of dollars per year in Medicaid reimbursements and this has been the problem.”
“Time and time again, Congress has hesitated to assist the Pacific Island Territories and the U.S. Virgin Islands for fear this might open the door for increased Medicaid benefits to Puerto Rico. Quite frankly, I think we should all be treated fairly, including Puerto Rico, and I will continue to bring this matter to the attention of Congress until the matter is fairly resolved.”
“Again, I want to commend Chairman Burton and the Ranking Member Watson for their leadership in holding a hearing on this important matter. I also want to thank the Governor of American Samoa, the Honorable Togiola Tulafono, for accepting an invitation to testify at this hearing and for tirelessly working to improve health care services for the residents of American Samoa. As always, I look forward to working with him and with the U.S. Congress to find a fair and reasonable approach to resolving health care disparities in American Samoa and other United States Pacific Island Territories,” the Congressman concluded.