Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that at 1:41 AM on Friday November 18, 2005 the House passed by a recorded vote of 217-215 the Deficit Reduction Act and included the Congressional Delegates’ provision to increase the Medicaid cap for the Territories. As a result, Medicaid payments to American Samoa will increase significantly and should lead to improved healthcare at LBJ if the House and Senate agree and submit this bill to the President for his signature.
“American Samoa receives approximately $4 million per year in Medicaid payments from the federal government and this is considered our base,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “If our provision is kept in place when the House and Senate go to conference, then for fiscal year 2006, our Medicaid payments will increase by $2 million for a base of $6 million. For FY 2007, an increase of $4 million will be added to our base for a total of approximately $8 million. For fiscal years 2008 and beyond, American Samoa will receive over $8 million in Medicaid payment plus additional funding for the cost of inflation.”
“Once the House and Senate agree and the President signs this into law, this means our Medicaid payments will double as a result of the work we have undertaken since the 108th Congress. During the 108th Congress, 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. I did this to put American Samoa on the radar screen so that in the 109th Congress, when it was expected that Medicaid would undergo major reform, we would be in a strong position to get our fair share.”
“Meanwhile, the Congressional Delegates, including Congresswoman Bordallo, Congresswoman Christensen, and myself, worked together to include provisions for the insular areas in the Tax Act of 2003 and, as a result, American Samoa received about a 5.9% increase or about $460,000 in Medicaid payments at that time. Then, we joined together to work directly with Chairman Joe Barton and Ranking Member John Dingell of the House Committee on Energy, as well as Congressman Dan Burton of the Government Reform Committee, to increase Medicaid funding for American Samoa, Guam, the Virgin Islands, and CNMI.”
“In February 2004, Chairman Dan Burton of the Government Reform Subcommittee on Wellness agreed to hold a hearing on February 25, 2004 entitled Investigations into Health Care Disparities in the United States Pacific Island Territories. Each of us participated in these hearings and we made sure our Governors were invited to testify.”
“After this hearing, Chairman Burton agreed to support our efforts to temporarily increase Medicaid funding for our districts. In response to his support, the Congressional Delegated jointed together and cosponsored an amendment on the House floor in early September 2004 to the Labor, Health and Education appropriations bill with language identical, except for the amount, to what Chairman Joe Barton of the House Energy Committee included in the Committee print and what the House has now passed in the Deficit Reduction Act.”
“During the September 2004 floor debate, however, Chairman Joe Barton asked that our amendment be withdrawn and promised he would help us more significantly at a later date if we would honor his request. Based on his promise, the amendment was withdrawn.”
“Shortly thereafter, the Congressional Delegates and I personally met with Chairman Barton on September 15, 2004. During this meeting, Chairman Barton again promised he would work to include our amendment in an upcoming bill in the 109th Congress and recommended that our staffs work together on the details. We also met with Ranking Member Dingell on October 7, 2004 and he agreed to support us.”
“After more than a year and a half of work on this initiative, we are pleased that Congress has taken action and that Chairman Barton and Ranking Member Dingell have kept their promise and included our amendment first in the Energy budget reconciliation committee print and now in the House Deficit Reduction Act and increased our original request from $8 million to $24 million.”
“If this is signed into law, American Samoa will receive an increase of $2 million for fiscal years 2006 and $4 million for 2007. The Virgin Islands will receive an increase of $2.5 million for fiscal year 2006 and $5 million for FY 2007. Guam will receive an increase of $2.5 million for FY 2006 and $5 million for 2007. CNMI will receive an increase of $1 million for FY 2006 and $2 million for FY 2007.”
“While this language must still be approved by the Senate, Chairman Barton has promised that he will fight to keep our funding in place during conference and we are so thankful for his support. Nevertheless, we still have work to do before this increase becomes final and there is always the possibility that other Members may try and take out this provision or reduce the amounts of our funding. Therefore, we are aggressively working to bolster support and will be sending out letters to the conferees to make sure that they vote in our favor during conference.”
“Again, I thank Chairman Joe Barton and Ranking Member John Dingell of the Energy Committee and also Congressman Dan Burton who I serve with on the International Relations Committee. These Members are true friends of the Territories and we thank them for their friendship and assistance. We also thank our colleagues in the House for their support,” the Congressman concluded.