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Lawmakers, health providers attend forum

MARIANAS Health LLC held a legislative breakfast health forum at Kanoa Resort on Nov. 17, 2016 from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

It was attended by emergency responders, health practitioners, health providers, health stakeholders and CNMI legislators. There were presentations on diabetes awareness prevention, the non-communicable disease risk factor hybrid survey report, the sweetened beverage legislation, home care, patient-centered medical care, and the Commonwealth Respite Care Services Program.

George Cruz, chief executive officer and president of Marianas Health, gave an update on federal health home care and other policies that are affecting healthcare delivery in the CNMI.

He quoted National Association for Home Care president Val J. Halamandaris who said:

“There is nothing more important to the home care and hospice providers and the patients we represent than to have an understanding of what policies will come out of the White House and are likely to be enacted by Congress where Republicans control the committees and have a significant majority.

“It is equally important that we bring our entire industry into agreement to help us fight onerous regulations and have them lifted wholesale, to block further cuts and to enact measures needed for our survival.”

But Cruz added, “We are not here to take political sides, but it is very important for us to understand what the political situation is in order for us to pass good legislation that will help our people, and right now there is a lot of good and bad legislation in the U.S. Congress that will affect our communities here in the CNMI.”

In his presentation, he talked about the elimination of what he called inappropriate rules such as face-to-face requirements and value-based purchasing that affect not only the CNMI but also Guam.

The Marianas Health Legislative Forum was held in Seaside Hall at the Kanoa Resort on Thursday with CNMI legislators and health providers. Photo By Bryan ManabatThe Marianas Health Legislative Forum was held in Seaside Hall at the Kanoa Resort on Thursday with CNMI legislators and health providers. Photo By Bryan Manabat

There’s also the rules on prior approval, pre-claim review and companion exemption.

“A lot of these regulations have been implemented and affect our care,” said Cruz.

“Our service went from 80 percent of direct patient care to 80 percent of paperwork,” he added.

Cruz gave as an example the Medicare-mandated prior approval requirement.

The rule says that “before you see this patient you have to go through this whole process first. Guess what? The patient just got discharged from the hospital after having a stroke, and now he needs immediate home care that we provide, but we have to wait for all this paperwork — one to two weeks before we can provide the service.”

Cruz called upon the legislators to help address some of the healthcare issues that will greatly affect the CNMI.

“We call on you as our leaders and as policy-makers to help address these issues, because we can’t do this alone,” he added.

In an interview, he said the Marianas Health Legislative Health Forum started eight years ago.

“We’re very happy to reinstitute it again — our legislators are key to passing good legislation in the CNMI, and not just for home care but for everything else, especially when addressing non-communicable diseases, diabetes and cancer. These are some of the things that we need to address, but we can’t just keep talking the talk — we need to walk the walk.

“So this is a great opportunity to meet incumbent lawmakers but also to encourage and help guide the new ones coming in January so we can start afresh and pass good legislation next year.”

He noted that previous legislation that imposed taxes “was supposed to be meant for prevention and public health awareness, but they have been misused or been reallocated for other things. So we have to look at these laws again and re-enforce them and bring them back to public health education outreach. We can do much better.”

He thanked community partners and lawmakers for attending the forum.

The other participants included firefighters, Ayuda Network Inc., the CNMI Non-Communicable Disease Coalition, the CNMI Diabetes Coalition, Northern Marianas College-Cooperative Research Extension and Education Services, Hardt Eye Clinic, NCD Bureau, Division of Public Health and the Kagman Community Health Center.