A huge chunk of the CNMI’s money is dependent on the Medicaid program that insures health insurance for low-income families in the Commonwealth but the program’s entitlements are approaching their end.
According to House of Representatives vice speaker Janet U. Maratita (R-Saipan), she recently introduced a bill that would allocate a portion of the Casino Business Gross Revenue Tax to keeping local Medicaid alive, in the event the federal program ends, reportedly in 2019.
“I introduced the bill that would put aside 10 percent of the Casino BGRT for the Medicaid program because the Medicaid program will be ending next year in September or October,” she said.
Maratita said she is aware of how vital the Medicaid program is—how many families rely on it—and intends to plan ahead.
“We just want to ensure…we need to plan ahead so that hopefully with that funding allocated to Medicaid, it will not hamper the Medicaid program,” she said.
Maratita said the U.S. government, which currently funds 50 percent of the Medicaid program, has decided that it is time that the CNMI funds the program completely.
“The [decision] was from the States…that we need to…locally fund it 100 percent…By the year 2024, I believe that the CNMI has to fund the program 100 percent locally so, with this bill, it will ensure that we have 10-percent from the BGRT…to plan ahead,” she said.
Maratita said she was made aware of situation about one month ago and immediately got to work on the bill.
“[The Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.] informed me as the chair for the local delegation’s health and welfare committee… and I met with the CEO [Esther Muna] and they advised me on how I could assist and that was how I came up with this bill and also the tax credit for health insurance, which is why we really need this so we don’t have to burden CHCC,” she said,
Maratita said she is confident in the chances of her bill going through the Legislature, but acknowledges that she would still need to gain the support of the Senate.
“Hopefully next session, it [the bill] will be on the calendar and then we go to Senate but I still need to lobby the bill with the Senate to gain their support,” she said.
Medicaid is a joint federal-state program that provides health coverage or nursing home coverage to certain categories of low-asset people, including children, pregnant women, parents of eligible children, people with disabilities and elderly needing nursing home care.