The health of a citizen is fundamental. So nothing is more egregious than to put at risk the healthcare needs of a third of our vulnerable citizens. Since the majority of our citizens in the CNMI fall below the poverty income guideline, this means that all of these individuals are Medicaid-eligible. As a matter of fact, based on recorded data from the CNMI Medicaid office, the number of Medicaid clients climbed to nearly 15,000 individuals in fiscal year 2014.
Suffice it to say these 15,000-plus individuals have no private health insurance coverage (can’t afford it) to underwrite their medical treatment at the hospital or private healthcare clinics here or elsewhere. This example should be enough to prove the precarious situation these members of our community face.
Having this information known by our esteemed governor and members of the Legislature for more than four years now, the real question is: What is their end game plan when the federal Medicaid assistance percentage, or FMAP, expires this year?
It is bad enough that this administration has failed miserably in its obligation to provide the needed Medicaid matching requirement (45/55 ratio and the unfunded matching obligation is about $14 million), and will now allow these members of our community to go without any kind of health coverage due mainly to the administration’s gross negligence, but it is also absolutely unconscionable.
These are the same group of people who were recently elected under their campaign of “super booming economy” led by a very conflicted governor. A governor who has demonstrated, with impunity, his defiance for accountability and transparency in his indiscriminate expenditure of the $20 million “Community Chest” account/funds. This huge amount of money was an agreed obligation paid by Best Sunshine International—as required under the casino license agreement when BSI was given the exclusive casino license in 2014. To this very day, not a single bit of meaningful information regarding how he is using this money has been reported to the public. One wonders if he is worried about some of this money going into the First Lady Dianne Torres Foundation trust account.
The likelihood is that these members of our community, when needing healthcare treatment at our only public hospital, will just aggravate the “uncompensated care/indigent care” costs account. This unpaid healthcare services account at the hospital has a staggering figure of more than $15.8 million and yet not a single member of these “elite leaders” has taken any proactive efforts to mitigate this very serious healthcare deficit.
Our esteemed governor does not have the foresight or the serious leadership to account for this critical need. The Republicans pander for the votes of these citizens just to get elected, but since those people are vulnerable, they are just as easily disposable as well in the minds of the GOP. This is how their formula of reciprocity was applied and used. In other words, these vulnerable members of our community became victims of their “all or nothing” political conquest attempt.
Daniel O. Quitugua
Kannat Tabla, Saipan