CHCC wants local share of Medicaid restored

Board approves $29.8M budget request for FY 2019

Beginning fiscal year 2019, the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. wants the local government to finally remit its local share of Medicaid funds.

CHCC chief executive officer Esther Muña said the hospital has had to tap Affordable Care Act monies since 2010-2011 to meet the shortfall.

An agreement between the CNMI government, which at the time was strapped for cash, and Medicaid allowed CHCC to draw down from the 55-percent federal Medicaid funding even without the corresponding local match, which was supposed to be 45 percent.

Fortunately, times have changed and, with the local economy improving, it’s about time that the local government finally remit its local share to the Medicaid pot, Muña said.

During last Wednesday night’s CHCC board of trustees meeting, members unanimously adopted its $29.8-million proposed budget for fiscal year 2019.

Included in the requested spending plan is about $14 million for the CNMI’s Medicaid local match.

“The reason why I emphasized that we put that in the budget is because, No. 1, it’s a loss and it should be recognized as a loss of this hospital. That is something that we haven’t provided to [our] Medicaid patients. That has been a loss and it should be reported as a loss,” said Muña.

She has been asking the administration of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres to return the local match of Medicaid funding since two years ago.

“[The] reality has changed and the CNMI now has more money to allocate to CHCC… at least fund it next fiscal year and be prepared that, by 2020 when the ACA is over, you now need to pay 100 percent,” she said.

ACA, or Obamacare, expanded health coverage to the uninsured and CHCC has been using the funding source since 2010-2011 when the CNMI government started to not fund its local Medicaid match.

“ACA is going down and I’m not even sure if CHCC can match federal funds for Medicaid using what’s left of funds provided by Obamamacare,” she said.

CHCC originally received $100 million in ACA funding and it expired in 2019.

Muña said if the government accedes to its request, CHCC plans to use the local Medicaid match for improvements needed at the hospital.

“We want to be able to see that funding go back to CHCC so we could address some of the issues and concerns, whether it’s the building, whether it’s solar, whether it’s funding…we want to be able to use those funds,” she said.

Muña said she wants the Torres administration and the Legislature to understand that the local Medicaid match is funding that should go to CHCC, emphasizing that it is for services that should be provided for Medicaid patients.

“Next year, there will be no ACA funds and the bottom line is that the CNMI government should’ve been putting that share anyway, right?” she said.

To its credit, Muña said, the Legislature seems to better understand CHCC’s predicament, especially with the expiring funding provided by Obamacare.

“Overall, the past several years that I’ve been going up to the Legislature there’s been some changes. I’m seeing there’s some recognition. That’s why I went back to our CFO (Derek Sasamoto) and asked him to make it clear that there’s a shortfall,” she said.

Muña said healthcare is expensive and that’s why she’s fighting tooth and nail to have the local Medicaid match restored to CHCC.

“We’ve made improvements to the facility. We have specialists coming over. We’re going to make changes to improve all around. It all costs money. One example is one small vial [of medicine] would cost thousands of dollars. The reality is healthcare is expensive. I want them to recognize that there is a shortfall and if there’s money, please put that to CHCC,” she said.

Mark Rabago | Associate Editor
Mark Rabago is the Associate Editor of Saipan Tribune. Contact him at

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