Lolo finds supportive partner for local healthcare
Obamacare was on Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga’s agenda when he returned to Hawai’i after the Western Governors’ Association Jobs Summit held in Santa Fe New Mexico earlier this week. According to a statement issued by the governor’s office, Governor Lolo met with Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie on Thursday, seeking assistance in ways American Samoa can effectively access the insurance benefits prescribed in the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, popularly known as “Obamacare”.
Abercrombie enthusiastically supports Governor Lolo’s request to collaborate on exploring health insurance coverage for American Samoa residents and they met at the Hawaii State Capitol to discuss the impact of Obamacare on the territories. Lolo informed Governor Neil Abercrombie that the needs of the Territories were not afforded due consideration when the Affordable Care Act was crafted.
“A prime example is the eligibility criteria citing Territories to be treated as a State, and yet preempted the territories from qualifying for federally supported insurance exchanges. Moreover, American Samoa lacks certified insurance carriers eligible to provide insurance to American Samoa residents.”
Governor Lolo noted in the statement that the high percentage of American Samoans suffering from non-communicable diseases would discourage insurance companies from issuing insurance policies to American Samoa residents. Secondly, the current service quality capacity of the LBJ Tropical Medical Center would not project confidence to the insurance carriers that it has the ability to render quality and effective patient treatment.
Lolo also raised the issue that American Samoa’s Medicaid program is unique because it adopts the “presumptive eligibility model” which qualifies about 87% of the Territory’s population. “My interest in pursuing the insurance exchange component of the Affordable Care Act," stated Governor Lolo, "is to accommodate the needs of approximately 30% of the population not eligible for Medicaid.”
Lolo also revealed to Governor Abercrombie that due to the confusing statutory language of the Affordable Care Act, along with the absence of certified insurance carriers and current inadequate healthcare infrastructure, Lolo opted to explore practical options which American Samoa can adopt and replicate to meet the healthcare needs of the people of American Samoa.
Since Hawaii is the first port of entry for American Samoa residents, [with] large pockets of Samoan communities providing support to family members sent to Hawaii for medical treatment, Lolo wrote, "it made logical sense to explore the experience of the State of Hawaii and determine how Hawaii could assist with some type of insurance format to help defray the cost of medical treatment for patients seeking medical treatment from Hawaii based healthcare institutions."
“Governor Neil Abercrombie enthusiastically supported Governor Lolo Moliga's request to collaborate on exploring health insurance coverage for American Samoa residents.”
Abercrombie was very sympathetic of American Samoa’s plight because he confirmed the fact that when the Obamacare legislation was drafted, the Territories were not afforded any consideration, thus compelling the decision to treat the Territories like States because the focus was on States.
Abercrombie graciously committed his staff to work with Governor Lolo’s staff to explore different insurance options for American Samoa to adopt, recognizing the existing deficiencies in the insurance and healthcare environments. Abercrombie recommended developing a model that is indigenous to American Samoa given its uniqueness relating to the high incidence of the population suffering from non-communicable diseases such as diabetes.
NATIONAL GUARD UNIT
Regarding the establishment of a National Guard, Governor Abercrombie committed his support to assist American Samoa with this endeavor and he will advance the wishes of American Samoa to the Board of National Guards of which he is a member.
Lolo extended his profound appreciation to Abercrombie for availing time to meet with him and his staff and especially for Abercrombie's commitment to assist American Samoa find a proper insurance mix to meet the needs of the people of Territory.