Press Room

ASTHO and PIHOA Praise Approval of Medicaid Funding Fix for U.S. Territories

ARLINGTON, Va. (Dec. 20, 2019)—This week, Congress approved legislation to extend Medicaid funding for two years for the U.S. territories in their fiscal year 2020 appropriations bills and extenders package. Esther Muña, the chief executive officer of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) board member, and Emi Chutaro, executive director of the Pacific Island Health Officer’s Association (PIHOA), issued the following statements applauding the bipartisan and bicameral extenders package. The legislation avoided devastating cuts to the territories’ health care services for their most vulnerable residents, scheduled to take place at the end of the year – widely called the “Medicaid Cliff.”

“The U.S. territories face unique healthcare and public health challenges and the support provided through the Medicaid program allows us to care for Americans who live on these islands in their communities,” says Chutaro.

“It is vital that we prioritize public health for Americans living in the U.S. territories,” says Nate Smith, secretary of health at the Arkansas Department of Health and ASTHO president. “Ensuring access to care is essential to protect and ensure health equity among and well-being within this population. As state health officials, we know that what benefits the territories will help us in our quest to bring optimal health to all.”

“We are grateful for the bipartisan and bicameral legislation which provides a two-year increase in funds and federal match for the Medicaid program in the U.S. territories," says Muña. “The increased funding will allow the health care and public health systems in the U.S. territories to further improve access and quality of care to the population. This funding continues to be vital to all of the U.S. territories, and while we are grateful for this temporary fix, we must find a long-term solution to Medicaid funding to provide stability to our system of care. In the upcoming year, we look forward to working collaboratively with Congress and the Trump Administration to further bolster health care and public health systems to build healthy and resilient communities throughout the U.S. territories.”


ASTHO is the national nonprofit organization representing the public health agencies of the United States, the U.S. territories and freely associated states, and the District of Columbia, as well as the more than 100,000 public health professionals these agencies employ. ASTHO members, the chief health officials of these jurisdictions, are dedicated to formulating and influencing sound public health policy and to ensuring excellence in public health practice

PIHOA is a nonprofit organization governed by and representing the collective interests of the ministers, directors and secretaries of health of the three US flag territories of American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam, and the three US freely associated states of the Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Republic of Palau. PIHOA members also include the chiefs of local public hospitals and Pacific regional professional organizations, academic institutions, and development agencies. PIHOA's mission is to improve the health and well-being of Pacific island communities by providing, through dynamic leadership and consensus, a unified, credible voice on Pacific health issues of regional significance.