Marianas Variety

Last updateThu, 20 Jun 2019 12am







    Wednesday, June 19, 2019-7:12:49P.M.






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Governor needs Kilili’s ‘urgent assistance’ in Medicaid funding

GOVERNOR Ralph DLG Torres has asked U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan for his “urgent assistance to mitigate the anticipated impact of the expiration of the expanded Affordable Care Act funding on the CNMI Medicaid program.”

In his March 12 letter to Kilili, the governor said, “We have known that the CNMI’s Medicaid beneficiaries would be facing reduction in services following the expiration of these funds. The loss of these resources is now further impacted by the damaging effects of Super Typhoon Yutu on the CNMI’s healthcare system and government resources.

The governor said the local Medicaid Office “properly managed the additional funds provided under the ACA,” and “has been diligent in their steady expense of all available funds.”

However, he added, the Medicaid Office “is on track to exhaust the available funding provided by the ACA in the upcoming quarter.”

Currently, he said, the CNMI Medicaid Office still has a balance of $270,000.

The CNMI has been aware of the “impending loss of the expanded ACA funds and has executed a process to ensure benefits were increased to the Medicaid beneficiary population for the period in which the funds were available,” the governor said.

“This process was successful in providing greater levels of care to the CNMI population and, in the wake of the nation’s worst storm in generations, the need for emergency funding to meet the needs of a community still in recovery is dire,” the governor added.

After the devastation caused by Super Typhoon Yutu, which Torres said “impacted the economy and caused a $12 million government budget cut, the ability of the CNMI to continue adequate funding for local share of its Medicaid program is in jeopardy without the emergency action of Congress.”

In an email to Variety, Kilili said:

“We improved the federal/local match for Medicaid during the debate on the Affordable Care Act in 2009. The match was 50/50. We changed it to 55 federal/45 local —better than the match for some two dozen states.

“The change to 55/45 that we got in the ACA is not expiring. It is permanent.

“What does expire this year is extra Medicaid money for the Marianas and other U.S. insular areas that we included in the Affordable Care Act in 2009. That $109 million for the Marianas has helped improve services and staffing at CHCC and throughout the Marianas healthcare system. But it is almost completely used up.

“Currently, I am working to get more Medicaid money in the disaster appropriation now before Congress. I amended that legislation during the House debate in January, increasing money for the Marianas to $36 million.

“And I am working to keep that money in the bill, when the Senate votes later this month.

“My $36 million appropriation is only a short-term fix, however.

“I have also been working since last year with the other insular area offices and the committees with jurisdiction over Medicaid to provide more funding for the Marianas for a longer period of time.

“My long-term goal is to get the Marianas into Medicaid under the same terms as a state — with unlimited funding. This goal has eluded other insular representatives since the 1980s. But with the Democrats now in the majority in the House, I believe there is an opportunity for improvement. We did it when we were in the majority in 2009-10 and enacted the Affordable Care Act.”