Gov. Ralph DLG Torres has sought the assistance of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II in providing additional assistance to the CNMI Medicaid program, in the wake of the devastation wrought by Super Typhoon Yutu last October.
“We have initiated planning for the implementation of austerity based on the reduction in financial revenues. While we have been working hard to recover from [Super Typhoon Yutu], and appreciate efforts of the [U.S.] Department of Homeland Security and [Federal Emergency Management Agency], the overall and full financial recovery will take years. We are also hopeful for a quick recovery, but we remain wary of a further reduction in government revenues and slower return to normalcy,” said Torres.
Besides its physical destruction, Yutu has gravely affected the CNMI’s economy; projections show that revenues will be reduced. The CNMI government was also forced to lower its budget by 4.7 percent: $12,048,000.
The CNMI government has fronted the costs for relief and recovery but will be reimbursed by FEMA, with the first batch of federal money expected to come in next month.
Torres said his administration hopes that HHS would accord to the CNMI’s Medicaid beneficiaries the same assistance it had provided to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands when both U.S. territories were also struck by disasters.
“We are in need of an increase of funding for a period of time. We have studied the significant assistance provided to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and are committed to making reasonable and appropriate progress to achieve the same objectives to submit data to the Transformed Medicaid Statistical Information System and to establish a Medicaid Fraud Control Unit,” said Torres.
He said his administration hopes to obtain the support of President Donald J. Trump. “[Hopefully] President Trump will encourage [U.S.] Congress to address the needs of the territories by applying the statutory requirements equal to the states for Medical Assistance Program and the Federal Matching Assistance Percentage.”
“The CNMI will have completely expended the last of the funds under the Affordable Care Act during this quarter and the Medicaid program is planning to severely curtail services that will directly affect our beneficiaries and our fragile health system.”