By Caribbean Medical News Staff

Governor John De Jongh has opted for the more affordable Medicaid expansion route, rather than go undergo additional expense to the US Virgin Islands as the USVI expands its medical insurance for the territory as proscribed under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

“An analysis of the Affordable Care Act showed that many mandates were not applicable to the Virgin Islands and that implementing a Health Insurance Exchange would have cost us over $250 million, with only $24 million supplied by the Federal government. The best strategy was to expand Medicaid coverage by raising the income eligibility rate, which commenced on August 1 with the coverage of pregnant women and children,” he added.

According to the Governor, there were a number of benefits of the programme to Virgin Islanders, other than savings to the territory, while stating that the US Virgin Islands was the first territory to announce the expansion of Medicaid to its citizens.

The Governor suggested that there were still some glaring gaps that needed to be addressed by Virgin Islands delegate Donna Christensen.

“Expanding Medicaid coverage will help some of those uninsured individuals but there will still be a gap. Recently Cigna announced that it would no longer offer policies to small business groups in a number of markets, including ours; this move was driven by economic factors.  Small businesses with 50 employees or less account for a large share of the uninsured in the Virgin Islands. I am working with the Division of Banking and Insurance to identify new insurers to enter the small business market, where affordable coverage is difficult to obtain. It is clear that health insurance, both financially and coverage-wise, is vitally important to our families and my administration is working hard to navigate the complexities of the federal act and the marketplace,” he added.

According to reports, about 29% of the residents of the USVI are without health insurance and under the ruling by the Supreme Court, each state or territory could expand its Medicaid program to cover non-elderly adults with incomes. The new income levels approximate $14,856 for a single individual and $29,700 for a family of four.

“I call upon Virgin Islands Delegate Donna Christensen to renew her efforts to provide parity to the territories and commonwealths in terms of Medicaid caps,” he said.

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