Lawmakers are set to summon the top executive of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. and its advisory board to separate meetings to discuss possible reforms of an earlier bill on health care.
In a joint committee meeting Tuesday, members of the health committees from the Senate and House of Representatives agreed to invite CHCC chief executive officer Esther Muña on Feb. 18, while the board will be invited on Feb. 19.
The lawmakers are also expected to discuss with Muña the corporation’s annual report, aside from getting other inputs from the CEO regarding the proposed bill.
The advisory board is also expected to give inputs to lawmakers.
The joint committee meeting was presided by Sen. Teresita Santos (R-Rota), who heads the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare, and Rep. Felicidad Ogumoro (R-Saipan), her counterpart in the House of Representatives.
The joint meeting discussed the need for a more thorough study of Senate Bill 19-04, a bill that changes the advisory board of the CHCC into a governing one.
One of the major concerns discussed at the joint meeting was the issue of “balancing of authority and not giving absolute power to one party.”
Lawmakers also agreed to look into the healthcare structures of Hawaii and Guam and compare those with the CNMI.
“It is for this reason that both [chambers] are calling upon the CEO and the advisory board to bring about a dialogue to address the concerns that are currently affecting CHCC in moving forward,” Santos said.
For Ogumoro, the bill should be made clearer so that questions such as who has the final say with regards to CHCC matters will finally be answered. She also endorsed the idea of meeting the regional boards of similar organizations in Guam.
Santos prefiled SB 19-04 in January but eventually decided to withdraw the bill, citing the need for more discussions or possible amendments.
SB 19-04 proposes to create a governing body for the CHCC that will appoint the CEO. Currently, the CEO, who is opposed to the bill, is appointed by the governor.
A similar bill introduced in the previous Legislature was passed by the House but not by the Senate due to “negative reactions” from the management of CHCC and Muña.
Santos promised that unlike previous attempts to enact a similar measure, SB 19-04 this time would go through the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare, which she chairs, as well as under public scrutiny via public hearings on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota.
The purpose of SB 19-04 is to amend certain provisions of Public Law 16-51 to allow for a smooth transition from the department to the new healthcare corporation, empowering the board of trustees “to make policies and perform all acts necessary and expedient to ensure the delivery of quality care in a financially responsible manner for the people of the Commonwealth.”
It will be recalled that the House hearing on SB 18-52 last Dec. 29 saw the CHCC CEO Muña and CHCC board of trustees chair Joaquin Torres getting embroiled in a fiery debate that at times broke the decorum of the lower chamber.