Healthcare corporation appeals for more federal aid

CEO, hospital administrator off-island to meet federal health execs
Faced with dwindling local funding support, the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. is turning its eye to federal agencies in a bid to ensure the survival of the Commonwealth Health Center.

Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. CEO Juan N. Babauta and hospital administrator Karen Buettner are in San Francisco this week to talk with the Federal Regional Council about a host of local health issues.

Named acting CEO is John Tagabuel, director of the Bureau of Environmental Health.

Based on their itinerary, Babauta is expected to discuss with federal officials six issues: the lack of an obstetrics and gynecologist at CHC, Medicaid issues, the hospital’s electronic health record system, updates on the Kagman Community Health Center, and the hospital’s revenue cycle management.

Just before leaving, Babauta disclosed to Saipan Tribune that a meeting had been requested with the National Health Services Corps to ask for the possible deployment of a obstetrics and gynecologist at CHC. Right now, the hospital has only one OB-gyne, Dr. Jennifer Linden, following the departure of Dr. Michael Deary early this year.

Babauta will also appeal to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services to approve the corporation’s proposal to allow the hospital to use its $7 million line of credit with the Marianas Public Land Trust as a certified public expenditure, or CPE, so it could be used as the local match for the Medicaid program.

“The local government and CMS are in the process of applying the CPE expenses as the state match for Medicaid. [The corporation] wants to explore the possibility of the MPLT loan qualifying as a CPE match for Medicaid funding and we requested a meeting with CMS officials,” Babauta said.

He will also be discussing with Medicare officials the general status of CHC’s compliance with federal standards and certification. A meeting with CMS Hospital and Community Care Operations director Rufus Arther was also requested.

Because of the broken financial system of the public hospital, the corporation created a revenue cycle management to beef up its collection efforts. Babauta confirmed that in order to realize the expected outcome, it needs start-up funds to hire additional personnel for the new cycle.

“[The corporation] is currently struggling to meet its internal and external obligations such as payroll, housing benefits, medical supplies and other operating expenses. [It] has a broken financial system. This situation concerns Medicare and Medicaid. To fix this broken system, revitalization of the revenue cycle management system is vital. It is the [corporation’s] intent to seek technical assistance from [the] departments of the Interior and Health Human Services in the form of a human resource with expertise to assist in setting up the new system,” Babauta said.

Corporation board chair Joaquin Torres separately confirmed that due to funding constraints, the hiring of 23 additional personnel for the new cycle management has been affected. Corporation records show that the new system only has three billers and three coders.

Moneth G. Deposa | Reporter

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