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OP-ED: AN OPEN LETTER TO THE FONO

Navigate our ship wisely, lest we all drown in the tsunami of hopelessness

If there’s a valuable lesson to learn from the ASG $20 million loan fiasco, it is the need for the administration and Fono to appreciate and respect what little financial resources we have, or have access to.  Simply put, leaders lack respect for limited resources, and people pay the price.

Clearly, proper planning would have had avoided unnecessary purchases (Fo’isia, Manu’a fautasi, barges, etc.) and costly litigation (Marisco, etc.).  And clearly, the LBJ off-island care program could have used some of that money back then.

Why the sudden interest in the off-island care program now?  Are lives today more valuable than lives when the $20 million loan funds were available?

Does the governor’s current $10 million loan request to leverage the Medicaid program expansion under the Obama Care reform law have the best interest of the public in mind? Or is the off-island care program a vehicle for further government discretionary spending?  Was the governor’s decision for AS to opt for the Medicaid expansion on the expense of the health insurance exchange alternative the result of an economic benefit cost analysis?

Is the $10 million the governor projected to gain from the Medicaid expansion a one-time grant or an annual infusion?  Is the benefit from the Medicaid expansion worth losing the access to affordable health insurance coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions that the health insurance exchange part of the Obama Care would provide (assuming it survives the Supreme Court Test)?

Did the governor seek to consult the Fono on this important matter, as he should have? How about the people - the consumers of health care; is their voice on the matter that impacts their lives not important?

Clearly, the administration failed to inform and engage the Fono and the public in a meaningful way (other than his Saturday radio program) or solicit their input on the Obama Care reform law and its implications on American Samoans.

Instead the governor, with his team of advisors, appears to have acted on his own on a matter that affects everyone’s lives and those of future generations.

The proposed four percent (4%) wage tax to help fund the proposed ten million dollar loan is flawed in that it places the burden on the wage earners.  How about the rest of the income earners in the territory— the business people who don’t receive wages but live off their business incomes, workers who are paid “under the table”, retirees and members of the clergy (faifeaus) — most, if not all, don’t file income tax returns.

And this is in addition to the recently passed two percent (2%) wage tax funding the $3 million loan to make up the unpaid ASG subsidies to LBJ.  Unless there’s another health care system in the territory I’m not aware of, these “free riders” get their care from LBJ Hospital and the off-island care program (if reinstated).

How much longer can the governor dictate as he wills within the framework of democracy?

One cannot fault him for being clever.  By offering many proposals at one time, he would sacrifice the others as bargaining chips to gain his signature health care financing bill - the $10 million loan.  Adding icing to the cake, he alluded to a Samoan-owned health care management company he’s in negotiations with.  WOW!!

May I caution the Fono not to be rushed by the governor’s salesmanship and antics.  Please take the time that’s necessary to review and question the governor’s proposed bills thoroughly.  May I also suggest that you review your health and health care 101 courses— the basics if you will.  I believe therein lies the solution to our health and health care woes.

You are our last fortress of hope.  Don’t disappoint us.



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