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Editorials | Regarding CHCC’s utility bills

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Pay up

THOSE who know how their government works are aware that whenever CUC and CHCC send each other letters or memos regarding the hospital’s unpaid utility bills, the two autonomous agencies are actually appealing to the administration and the Legislature to do something.

CUC and CHCC are, arguably, the CNMI’s two most important government entities. They are crucial to the quality of life of each and every  island resident. Government offices — which pay higher rates so that residential and business customers can pay less — must pay their utility bills on time. But CHCC is not just another CUC customer. CHCC runs the Commonwealth’s one and only hospital that has to provide healthcare to anyone who needs it.

CUC says CHCC owes over $34 million. But CHCC says the amount includes penalties which are “almost 50% of the principal.” Moreover, CHCC says the central government owes the hospital nearly $72 million in Medicaid reimbursements, and that the Department of Corrections and Public Safety, for their part, owe CHCC over $3 million. CHCC likewise said that previous CNMI government appropriations amounting to over $13 million have never been remitted to the healthcare corporation. That’s a grand total of $88 million owed to CHCC. And this amount doesn’t include the more than $20 million a year in uncompensated care that CHCC said it is subsidizing.

Unlike CUC, however, CHCC cannot “disconnect” its healthcare services, and its customers are the very same people that elected officials insist should be provided quality healthcare.

So if anyone’s utility services should be disconnected — and not just for six hours a day — CUC should start on Capital Hill where executive branch buildings and the Legislature are located. They’re the real “biggest delinquents.” And except for their employees, no one else would notice if many of those offices and buildings are shut down.

CHCC, in any case, must pay what it actually owes CUC. But the central government should also pay what it owes CHCC.

Question for CHCC — and lawmakers

BEFORE the creation of CHCC, the then-Department of Public Health was struggling to survive. In 2007, federal authorities “identified many problems with the delivery of healthcare at the hospital, and cited several cases where harm and injury to patients was found to be imminent if immediate corrective actions were not implemented.”

The fear back then was that the hospital might shut down.

In Jan. 2009, a public law was enacted to establish CHCC so that it could “develop and regulate, as necessary, a high quality, efficient, and market oriented public healthcare delivery system in the CNMI.” Moreover, to the “extent it determines prudent,” the law “authorizes the Corporation to enter into performance management contracts and other types of contracts with the nonprofit and private sector for management functions and delivery of healthcare services.” The goal was to establish a “financially responsible…, professionally managed, nationally accredited, independent public healthcare institution that is as financially self-sufficient and independent of the Commonwealth Government as is possible.”

So what exactly should be done so that CHCC can no longer be financially dependent on the CNMI government?

And where is the “oversight hearing” for this and other related healthcare issues that every single politician on Capital Hill, who are all “pro-healthcare,” say are “very important”?

November 2020 pssnewsletter

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