Responding to a request from Lt. Gov. Gregory Francis, President Barack Obama asked administration officials to look into any flexibility they may have to treat the territories more equitably in planned reforms for the Affordable Care Act.
Francis was one of 43 state insurance officials attending an April 17 conference on the ACA, known as "Obamacare," at the White House.
Other attendees included the president, Vice President Joe Biden, and administration health officials. The meeting was called by the White House in preparation of the 2015 open enrollment period to provide a platform for regulators in states and territories to discuss ongoing health care challenges in their respective jurisdictions.
As spokesperson for the territories, Francis said the administration has used its authority to delay implementation of reforms where necessary to avoid market disruption. According to Francis, the fact that the territories are being forced to implement these reforms without subsidies or a mandate has devastated their health insurance markets.
Francis said the territories need time to work with their carriers and legislators to find solutions.
“Is the administration willing to delay enforcement of the market reforms for plans renewed or sold in the territories – just as they did for plan renewals in the states – so territories can create a marketplace that works?” Francis asked.
Obama responded with a charge to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to look into the territories’ needs.
“Parity with the states is a critical element of our overall health care discussion," Francis said in a statement issued Friday by the Lieutenant Governor’s Office. "Given the limitations on federal funding and the absence of the Virgin Islands’ inclusion in federally facilitated or state partnership exchanges, it is imperative that as a territory we seek to lower costs and provide comprehensive insurance options to all residents.”
“While ACA does provide some important health insurance reforms that will benefit Virgin Islands residents, the limitations are of great concern, and I will continue to advocate for parity as all residents are citizens of the United States of America and should receive the same benefits, especially when it comes to health care,” Francis said.