06/11/2010 Statement by USVI Governor John P. deJongh, Jr.
June 9, 2010
Health and Human Services
Today, I wish to announce a major step in the Virgin Islands Government’s health care initiatives and its implementation under the new federal health care law. But, first, I would like to take a few minutes to talk about the new law and how it affects the Virgin Islands.
As you know, expanding health care access, improving health care delivery, and reforming health care coverage have been and continue to be a priority for this Administration.
My Administration has embarked on what can best be described as the most extensive overhaul and revitalization of the Virgin Islands’ health care system in our history. As part of these efforts, we will improve and expand healthcare coverage to thousands of families and individuals who are currently uninsured or ineligible for public programs such as Medicaid. In particular, we will focus on the connection between access to quality healthcare and the quality of life in our community. Utilizing the resources made available to us with the recent enactment of major healthcare reform legislation by the United States Congress, our goal is to ensure that all of our children and pregnant women will have timely access to necessary health care services. Too many of our children do not get appropriate and needed care, especially preventive care, and as a result are less able to learn and succeed. This contributes to a cycle of poverty and low expectations that we must break, and we will break it.
In order to take care of our children “right from the start,” our goal is to provide pregnant women in the Territory with the necessary pre-natal, birthing, and post-natal care. Our goal is also to ensure that our most vulnerable citizens – our seniors and the disabled – receive needed care and services in the most appropriate setting, which in many instances is in their own home.
Our commitment is reflected by several initiatives that have been on-going for more than a year. These efforts have been focused, coordinated, and designed to take advantage of the new federal healthcare legislation. With the enactment of such legislation into law earlier this year, our health care initiatives are now entering a new phase, in which we must expeditiously implement the provisions of that new law while continuing to make progress in related areas.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, frequently referred to as “Health Care Reform,” provides for the largest restructuring of the U.S. health care system and the largest expansion of health care coverage in the U.S. in nearly half a century. To understand the new law, especially in terms of how it treats the Virgin Islands and other Territories, it is useful to recall the very unusual process by which the law was passed. This was a law whose midwife was the practical politics of the national government.
For example, the Virgin Islands and other Territories are not included in the provisions establishing temporary high risk pools and providing funding for early retiree reinsurance programs. Moreover, residents in the U.S. Territories will not be able to participate in the new insurance exchanges, which States are required to establish beginning in 2014, to the same extent as residents in the States, including having access to the same level of subsidies and tax credits. However, residents of the Virgin Islands and other Territories will not be subject to the mandate that will apply to individuals in States which will require that all lawful residents to maintain minimum levels of insurance coverage beginning in 2014. Moreover, small businesses in the Virgin Islands will be encouraged to voluntarily provide coverage to their employees through tax credits