‘Stop misinforming the public’

Governor says Medicaid was never in jeopardy, CNMI will not be losing $28M federal money

Ralph DLG Torres

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres describes it as “unfortunate that there are elected officials who go on social media and other platforms to not just misinform the community but steer uncertainty in our own people” about an alleged lack of $5 million in local matching funds to the Commonwealth Medicaid Agency.

“Medicaid was never in jeopardy. Medicaid has always been taken care of not, just what we offered but we actually contribute more,” said Torres in an interview Monday.

The governor said his administration has always taken care of Medicaid recipients.

“So again, there’s no shortage of $5 million. We will continue to make our ends meet,” he added.

Torres suggested that any elected official who makes these claims should “please do the homework, because it’s an embarrassment and an insult” to the institution who work so hard protecting the CNMI’’s people.

“We have elected officials going out and misinforming the community. It just shows how misinformed they are or they don’t know the reality versus the political season,” he said.

Last Aug. 2, saying the ripple effects of losing $28 million in federal Medicaid money will be devastating, Reps. Christina E. Sablan (D-Saipan) and Donald M. Manglona (Ind-Rota) urged Torres in a letter to exercise his 25% reprogramming authority to immediately transfer the required $5 million local matching funds to the Commonwealth Medicaid Agency.

Sablan and Manglona said Torres may also direct the Finance secretary to expeditiously provide the House of Representatives with an updated status of all accounts to assist them in identifying the funding sources for an amendment to Public Law 22-08, the Annual Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2022.

Sablan and Manglona chair the House Health and Welfare Committee and House Ways and Means Committee, respectively.

Torres said yesterday that during a recent Health and Welfare Committee meeting, CNMI Medicaid Agency acting director Vicente Borja was asked what would happen if the administration does not give it the $5 million.

“Well, obviously, if we don’t give, then we return [the] $28 million. But the right question was never asked: Are we short $5 million?” Torres said.

The governor said they know that no matter whatever funding grant the CNMI Medicaid has, if the administration does not come up with a local match, then the available federal money gets returned.

“So again, if there is a misunderstanding, I want to let the community know…that Medicaid is not short of money. And that, as always, the recipients will continue to get the services they need,” he said.

The governor said the $5 million is in the administration’s proposed budget submission for fiscal year 2023, using different sources and reprogramming authorities to make the payment.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com
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