The Medical Referral Program seeks to secure over $12 million in funding for its operation in fiscal year 2018.
Speaking before the Ways and Means Committee on Friday, the Medical Referral Program asked for over $12.7 million, some $10.6 million over the governor’s proposed $2.1 million budget for the office.
The parity is currently under discussion by the committee.
“There is a significant difference. For the current year, fiscal year 2017, we are already looking at an expenditure of $6 million, so obviously $2 million is low,” said committee chair Rep. Angel Demapan (R-Saipan), who said the high expenditure may mean one of two things: that the program needs more funds or it “needs to be managed more efficiently.”
A lot of medical referrals go to Hawaii, the Philippines, or Guam. However, Demapan said these locations lack utilization reviewers, or URs, a staff that acts as a safeguard against unnecessary and inappropriate medical care.
“Without a UR, there is nobody in the medical staff that can actually be a part of the management of the care, the tracking of the patient’s progress, or both. In one aspect, that is what’s lacking,” said Demapan.
“Maybe we need to revisit that and provide funding to provide URs to be a part of the management for each case,” Demapan added.
He agrees that budgeting for medical referral is tricky to predict because “we can’t tell what the cases can be and the extent of treatment.”