Hospital staff may lose health insurance

Posted on Feb 24 2012
By Moneth Deposa

Over a hundred Commonwealth Health Center employees may lose their health insurance coverage after the discovery that they are behind in their premium payments for several pay periods.

Saipan Tribune learned that the affected personnel are mostly nurses and critical services employees.

Health insurance coverage is optional for CHC employees who enroll with either of three insurance companies: Staywell, Aetna, and Calvo’s. Those who opt to obtain this insurance have their premiums deducted from their payroll checks. The corporation is then supposed to remit these deducted amounts to the insurance carriers.

Eli C. Buenaventura, general manager for Calvo’s Insurance Underwriters Inc., confirmed with Saipan Tribune yesterday that their members at the hospital are delinquent in their premium payments for four pay periods.

Since Calvo’s has no existing contract with the government or the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp., Buenaventura said the company is trying to resolve the matter with individual members.

Despite the delinquency, however, Buenaventura assured that Calvo’s continues to provide medical insurance coverage to its members at CHC, but not to newly enrolled ones.

“We will be dealing with our individual members because we don’t have any contract with the government [or the corporation]. Yes, we haven’t received any premium payment for the past four pay periods. [From] a business perspective, it is basic that if we don’t get the premium, we will not be able to deliver the services,” he explained.

According to Buenaventure, Calvo’s will be notifying its members at CHC about their delinquent payments and they will be given a certain period to fulfill it.

“For the existing members, we will write them a letter together with their billing asking them to update their payments or the coverage will be suspended or cancelled in 15 days [after receipt],” he said.

For new members, the company will not activate their coverage because one of the requirements for activation is for the company to receive at least one payment from new members.

“We cannot activate our services for them [newly enrolled] because we haven’t received any payment at all,” he added.

Saipan Tribune learned that Calvo’s collects over $9,000 worth of premiums per pay period from over 100 members at CHC. To date, these members owe the insurance carrier about $40,000.

Buenaventura said that this is the first time for the company to experience such a lengthy delinquency among CHC members. The firm has been providing insurance coverage to CHC staff since 2000.

Staywell Health Insurance official Eric Plinske confirmed with Saipan Tribune yesterday that CHC owes the company some money but declined to say what it is for. He said members at CHC are “still active” and remain covered by Staywell. He declined to say how many members Staywell has at CHC.

Worried members

Hospital employees who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity expressed dismay about the situation, saying they were only informed about it very recently. They said they were not aware that their premiums have not been remitted for so long.

A nurse who needed to avail of some prescription drugs at the hospital’s pharmacy was surprised to learn that her account at her insurance company was delinquent after she was made to wait for verification at the counter.

Another employee at the outpatient clinic shared the same experience, saying she was asked to wait to see if her coverage is suspended or not.

Employees said that they will inquire with the corporation’s administration about the situation.

Saipan Tribune tried to reach corporation chief executive officer Juan N. Babauta yesterday but he was out almost all day for a series of meetings.

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