FSM immigrants get lion’s share of care in GUAM


PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT

Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center
With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies/University of Hawai‘i

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FSM IMMIGRANTS GET LION’S SHARE OF CARE IN GUAM
13.5 percent of Guam population, 55 percent of benefits

By Laura Matthews

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, May 25, 2011) – Immigrants from the freely associated states make up 13.5 percent of Guam’s population, but they outnumber any other group when it comes to availing themselves of the Medically Indigent Program’s health-care services, which cost the local government millions of dollars each year.

Citizens of the freely associated states accounted for about 55 percent of the total number of Guam residents who benefited from the Medically Indigent Program at the Department of Public Health and Social Services, according to Public Health Data.

Residents from the Federated States Micronesia’s Chuuk state account for almost half, or 5,359 people, in the health-care program for indigents, according to the Public Health data.

The government of Guam budgeted US$13.9 million this year for the program.

Much of that money goes to in-patient hospital services and out-patient hospital services, according to the data.

Public Health Director James Gillan yesterday said Guam doesn’t have a problem providing indigent health care to anybody who needs it, but it needs the resources to do so.

MIP is 100 percent locally funded.

“This community doesn’t have a problem helping anybody who needs help,” Gillan said. “The community has a problem with finding the resources to do it.”

Public Health data show that at the end of the second quarter of this fiscal year, there were 12,107 participants in the MIP program, of whom approximately 6,650 are from the freely associated states. Immigrants from Palau, the FSM and the Marshall Islands can live on Guam under their island nations’ free association agreements with the United States.

There were 19,949 people from the FSM who were living on Guam in 2010, and 14,494 are from Chuuk, according to the Impact of the Compacts of Free Association on Guam report.

There were 513 immigrants from the FSM state of Pohnpei who received assistance under MIP, while 368 Palauans received the program’s help during that time.

A total 3,024 participants identified as local Chamorros received assistance under the indigent health care program, Public Health data show.

Chamorros make up the largest segment of the island’s population, but only about one in four MIP participants are indigenous island residents, according to Public Health data.

Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo, in a recent letter she co-wrote with several other U.S. lawmakers, asked the State and Interior Departments to take action so that Guam won’t end up with more regional immigrants who have become what she described, as communicated to her by some of the Guam mayors, as a public burden.

Gerson Jackson, consul general for the Federated States of Micronesia, yesterday said members of the FSM community are coming to Guam for opportunities.

“We don’t have our services up to par comparing to Guam or Hawaii or even the continental U.S.,” Jackson said. “Even our education system — we are still developing (that) — and our health system.”

Jackson said there are discussions to see how they can lessen the impact.

He added that if people are found to be on Guam for reasons besides what’s allowed under the agreement, they can be excluded and prevented from entering the United States. Regional migrants are allowed into the United States to study or get jobs.

“Hopefully soon we can develop our economy in a way that we can offer the benefits, the job opportunities that are very much lacking within (the) country, in the FSM in particular,” Jackson said.

The federal government has provided annual funding to help Guam cope with the costs related to the increased demand placed on educational and social services by the migrants.

That cost is racking up.

For the past seven fiscal years, the government of Guam has incurred a total cost of US$324.5 million, unaudited figures, for providing education and social services to the migrants from the freely associated states, according to the Impact report. These are locally funded costs that are un-reimbursed, the report states. The GovGuam report covers fiscal years 2004 through 2010.

The regional migrant population makes up 13.5 percent of the total population on Guam, which is about 180,692, according to the report.

Guam gets about US$14 million each year as reimbursement, but that amount doesn’t cover half of what the Guam Department of Education spends each year, which is about US$30 million, said Sen. Frank Blas Jr.

Blas said a lot of the costs associated with the regional migration are incurred through education, health care and public safety services.

Blas said he doesn’t see the regional migrants as a burden because they are allowed to benefit from these services under the agreement.

“Because they are allowed to gain the services provided by the government just like any other United States citizens, many of them take advantage of this,” Blas said. “The compact provides (for) them to come on for education, for health care and a better way of life. … There’s actually nothing wrong with that.”

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com
Copyright © 2011 Guam Pacific Daily News. All Rights Reserved

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