CHCC: No surprise billing for COVID-19 testing

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Posted on Mar 19 2020
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As the U.S. await the fate of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which would facilitate free coronavirus testing for everyone—even for the uninsured—people in the CNMI can rely on the Commonwealth Health Care Corp. that they will get tested, following protocols in place.

While the CNMI remains low risk, with no COVID-19 cases recorded, the administration of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres has been treating the situation as high risk as early as January.

“Since Day 1, we’ve been aggressively making our health care a priority,” Torres said. “Fortunately, we don’t have one yet today. We are at low risk, that’s the fortunate part.”

The unfortunate part, according to the governor, is that the virus has already spread to 49 American states, with a few territories or insular areas with positive COVID-19 cases as well.

This means that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services have these states and territories as priorities way ahead than the CNMI, given the virus being already there.

“The unfortunate [part] is that we have a long list of priorities of millions of millions of population before our 55,000. The good thing is we’re still at low risk, while we’re treating this as a high risk, and that’s an important part of our action moving forward,” Torres added.

Locally, CHCC has screening protocols to determine who needs to get tested, and is making sure that those who gets to be tested would not be met with a surprise billing following the COVID-19 test.

“The great model of CHCC is that we are a hospital but we’re also a public health department. Anyone that comes to CHCC, whether through the ER, through the hospital, our responsibility is public health,” CHCC chief executive officer Esther L. Muña said. “We will make sure that no one comes with a surprise billing and saying, ‘oh, what happened here?’”

According to Muña, Medicare and Medicaid have waivers that, with President Donald J. Trump’s proclamation, allows Medicaid to pay for those that are covered, as well as Medicare. “There’s a way for the hospital to get reimbursed. But we may have to take a bite on some of those cases where the person is uninsured.”

As for test kits, Muña said that both CDC and HHS are working on adding more, whether through the private sector or through the Public Health in Guam, or even in the CNMI.

Iva Maurin | Author
Iva Maurin is a communications specialist with environment and community outreach experience in the Philippines and in California. She has a background in graphic arts and is the Saipan Tribune’s community and environment reporter. Contact her at iva_maurin@saipantribune.com
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