‘Congresswoman Must Fight for Territory, not Tow Party Line’

The Director of the American Samoa Medicaid Office Sandra King Young is disappointed with a statement by Congresswoman Aumua Amata that “unless the unspent Medicaid money is spent, Washington will not send any increased funding.”

The congresswoman said on the Samoa Sunrise Show yesterday that American  Samoa received $189 million from the Affordable Care Act and this money has not been spent ,

She said it’s really hard to get money out of Washington when money that’s already sent hasn’t been used.

The Director of the Medicaid Office reacted that the congresswoman’s’ statement “seems as if she has already made the decision of what the result will be for American Samoa’s request to increases our Medicaid funding.”

King Young said, “Even though that is a possibility because of the current Republican agenda to repeal the Affordable Care Act and reduce Medicaid, the point is our Representative to Congress needs to fight for the territory, not tow the Republican party line because we do have options and we do have friends in Congress, which have not been exhausted.

King Young admits it’s not a good thing that American Samoa cannot draw the ACA Medicaid funding down fast enough while at the same time we are fighting for an increase.

But she insists Congresswoman Aumua needs to understand that even without the ACA Medicaid money–“the point is our current Regular ACA Medicaid money we get every year is significantly less than what we actually need to provide for our health care system.”

King Young reminds that prior to the ACA Medicaid funding, LBJ Hospital was always asking for more subsidy and taking out loans to make ends meet.

She said “thankfully with the availability of the ACA Medicaid funds, we have plenty of Medicaid monies for the program…up to 2019. On the flip side, however , our annual Regular Medicaid budget without the ACA funding, needs to be increased by $10-$15 million.”

She stressed the the Medicaid funding “is a critical lifeline to our health care system and inevitably our patients.”

King Young told KHJ News, “This is the most critical issue American Samoa has before Congress at this time and our Representative to Congress must execute vigorous bi-partisan advocacy on our territory’s behalf to ensure Medicaid coverage for our people.”

She pointed out that asking for an increase in our Medicaid funding means that our congresswoman is inherently going to go against Republican efforts to cut Medicaid funding.

She says because of the “legislative chaos” surrounding Republican efforts to repeal and replace ACA, “it is incumbent on our Representative to first and foremost look out for the territory’s interest.”

Governor Lolo announced last month that ASG was hiring a lobbyist in Washington D.C. to handle the Medicaid funding issue.

According to King Young, the congresswoman’s precarious position with her party on the Medicaid issue is part of the reason why a lobbyist has been hired.

She said the Medicaid lobbyist will represent the territory’s needs without getting bogged down with Republican politics to repeal ACA.

Besides that, she said this issue is “heavy lifting that requires constant and vigorous advocacy in both the House and Senate.”

King Young said, “We need to get the ACA Medicaid funding expenditure timeline extended, and barring that, then our Representative to Congress needs to get our block Medicaid grant increased based on what we are drawing now and the need for increased funding to fully comply with the Medicaid State Plan including the off-island referral program.”

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