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Amata cosponsors introduction of 8-year Medicaid bill for American Samoa

Amata and  Rep. Darren Soto
Source: Congresswoman Uifaatali Amata's Office

Washington, D.C. — Legislation directing Medicaid funding to American Samoa for the next eight years was introduced this week. Congresswoman Amata is an original cosponsor of this key bill, which locks in the nation’s best non-emergency federal matching rate, known as FMAP, at 83 percent for the next eight years. That rate is only higher at times for short term emergency purposes. The bill is titled the Supporting Medicaid in the U.S. Territories Act of 2021, H.R. 4406, and scheduled for Committee consideration today, Thursday, July 15.

The legislation provides eight-year stability for American Samoa, along with Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Similarly, Puerto Rico, with its much larger population, would have set funding at 76 percent for five years. Upon final passage, this bill would avert an upcoming deadline, often called a “fiscal cliff,” currently set for September 30, 2021. 

“In 2019, we worked together as insular representatives and territories to make the major change from a standard 55 percent rate to the 83 percent starting in 2020, and now this bill would build on that for an extended time,” said Congresswoman Amata. “In American Samoa, our people depend on Medicaid, so having the best rate in the nation established for eight years allows for dependable budget decisions.”

The bill has the united support of the Representatives from the five territories, the important backing of the Chair and Ranking Member of the full House Energy and Commerce Committee, and the Chair and Ranking Member of the Health Subcommittee with jurisdiction.

This is the same Committee that Congresswoman Amata testified before, earlier this year, on prioritizing additional support for American Samoa’s Medicaid program along with the related modernization needs of LBJ Tropical Medical Center. In addition to this week’s legislation, Amata is also an original cosponsor of the Insular Areas Medicaid Parity Act, a bipartisan bill which would lift the caps entirely for the four smaller island territories.

Establishing the rate of 83 percent for eight years does not prevent emergency rates during disasters. The federal match is currently 89.2 percent during the pandemic-related economic circumstances, and the Territory’s match requirement was temporarily waived following the Storm Gita disaster. Codifying the 83 percent ensures the highest long term federal match under the statute in any state or territory, and prevents the territories from facing any sudden unexpected loss of Medicaid match funding.

“This important effort has momentum from the start with the bipartisan support of Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone and Ranking Member Cathy McMorris Rodgers, and the Health Subcommittee leadership of Rep. Darren Soto and Rep. Gus Bilirakis,” concluded Amata.