Health insurers question legislation to help GMH debt

Written by Ken Quintanilla
Published on Jan. 18, 2013

Guam - Thursday KUAM News reported on legislation aimed at helping pay off the Guam Memorial Hospital's multimillion dollar debt, but some health insurance companies are questioning how this would not only impact their companies but customers as well. Committee on Health chair Senator Dennis Rodriguez, Jr. says Bill 20 was in the works for two years and would finally put to rest the hospital's millions of dollars in debt owed to local and off-island vendors.

"I thought it was very important to clear that up, because it is threatening the operation of the hospital and the kind of quality care that it delivers to our people," said thy senator.

The GMH Healthcare Trust and Development Act of 2013 would provide approximately $8.5 million annual revenue stream to GMH, funded by a 4% fee assessed on premiums collected by health insurance companies doing business on Guam.

Health insurance providers like Netcare's Troy Moylan say it will affect members. "But just right off my head, if they're going to go ahead and increase premiums by four percent payable to the hospital that would pretty much require us to pass that four percent off to our members," Moylan said.

SelectCare's Frank Campillo had similar comments, noting, "So health insurance continues increase in premiums to increase another 4%. Evidently, this is something that will put more pressure on the community and is something the community needs to address and decide."

Rodriguez says that shouldn't be the case for the four insurance companies that provide health insurance coverage on Guam. He told KUAM News, "And hopefully the fact and concern that there's going to be an increase in premiums wont happen, because for many years our insurance partners have enjoyed significant tax relief. So we're asking them now to help us at this time when the hospital needs the help that it needs."

Moylan says legislation to help improve the hospital has good intent, but believes consulting with health insurance companies on the impact would have been helpful. "Anything as significant as that, I think they should come and see us and talk to us and see what kind of affect it will have on our business and how that affects all the members that we ensure. Getting the public's input is important," he said.

Campillo meanwhile waits to see how the public hearings turn out with feedback not only from the others in the insurance industry but the consumers as well, saying, "If the whole community, yes - this is the way to go and support the Guam Memorial Hospital based on this, then we all need to get on board of this."

Rodriguez meanwhile says he unofficially worked with the people in the industry while putting the bill together but hopes to collaborate more in the future, saying, "We're going to work and reach out to our insurance partners and work hand in hand in this because this is our hospital."

Bill 20 meanwhile also helps fund management and operational reforms along with reduces the strain placed on the hospital's emergency room department by building an urgent or primary care center.

Staywell's Francis Santos is currently off-sland, but confirms his company was not consulted about the bill; neither was TakeCare, according to CEO Jeff Larsen. A public hearing is tentatively set for February 5.