Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan expressed relief today as the U.S. Supreme Court announced it had upheld the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The result of the ruling is that the many benefits the people of the Northern Marianas are already receiving from the health care reform law, which Congress enacted in 2010, will continue.
"Health care is a basic human need," said Congressman Sablan. "And today's ruling means that the people of the Northern Mariana Islands will continue to get help from the Affordable Care Act to address the health care emergency in our islands.
"We worked very hard in Congress and with the Administration to make sure that territorial areas received some of the benefits of Obamacare," Sablan said.
"As a result, over $100 million in new Medicaid money is available for the CNMI. And the government has already drawn down over $8 million of that Obamacare money.
"We have a better federal/local match for Medicaid. It went from 50/50 to 55/45.
"The many consumer protections apply. Insurance companies will not be able to deny coverage because of preexisting conditions, or put limits on how much you can get in a year or over a lifetime, or charge higher rates for women than for men, or take away coverage when you get sick.
"Seniors on Medicare got $250 checks to help with prescription drug costs in 2010. Last year, Seniors in the "donut hole" started getting a 50 percent discount on their medicines, an average of $569.24 in the Marianas. And by 2020 the donut hole -- the gap in Medicare coverage for drug spending between $2,800 and $4,550 -- will be completely closed.
"Because of the $608,333 start-up grant from the Affordable Care Act the Kagman Community Health Center can now open. People in Kagman are looking forward to getting dental services, prenatal, immunizations, and other primary and preventive care in just a few months, by October 1, I understand.
"The CNMI Department of Commerce has received a $1,000,000 grant to help improve regulation of insurance companies, so premiums are fair.
"People who buy health insurance are going to be getting rebates by August 1, if their insurer spent more than 20 percent of premiums on salaries and other overhead instead of on health care. 363 families will be getting notice from their insurer. The average rebate in the Marianas is $782, third highest in the nation.
"The CNMI has received $500,000 for preventive care, and $1,500,000 for Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Programs.
"All of these health care benefits could have been lost, if the Supreme Court had ruled against Obamacare today. Fortunately, that did not happen.
"We do have to be concerned, however. Because the Republican leadership has said that it is still determined to repeal Obamacare in Congress.
"We cannot let that happen," Congressman Sablan said.
"We must continue to work for even more improvements in health care for the people of the Northern Mariana Islands."
House Republican leaders today set July 11 for a vote to repeal completely the Affordable Care Act.