Where is the money?


I encourage Gov. Ralph DLG Torres to make an effort to understand the issues affecting Medicaid and the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. There is no excuse for why his administration has kept the CNMI Medicaid Agency and CHCC in the dark for months about how and when the local match would come. There is no excuse for Gov. Torres’ total lack of urgency. 

The administration has known about Medicaid’s need for the $5 million local match since at least March, when the new U.S. Treasury rule barring the use of ARPA funds for the Medicaid local match was released. The administration has also known about the disastrous consequences of failing to meet the local match. In May, with no solutions in sight, the CNMI Medicaid Agency wrote to the Legislature for help. I inquired with the Secretary of Finance about the status of the local match for Medicaid at the budget hearing in June, then called a Health and Welfare hearing with Medicaid and CHCC in July when it became apparent that the issue had not yet been resolved. The sense of crisis was abundantly clear to all of us. 

After the Health and Welfare hearing, I requested a meeting with the Secretary of Finance. He did not respond. Ways and Means chairman Donald Manglona and I then wrote a joint letter to the governor proposing solutions and urging him to take action. The governor also did not respond. But a few days later, with mere weeks to go before the end of the fiscal year, we received word that the administration had finally transferred the $5 million needed and Medicaid can now begin drawing down funds to pay providers and vendors. Where the money actually came from is a subject for further inquiry by the Legislature. 

It’s a little late in the game for the governor to be telling the public that Medicaid was “never” in jeopardy, let alone lecturing lawmakers—and by extension the agencies that came to us for help—about “misinformation.” 

I urge Governor Torres to make healthcare a priority. Talk to the people at Medicaid, the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp., and the patients who depend on Medicaid and CHCC for care. Communication goes a long way to assure people that they won’t be losing life-saving benefits. We are still waiting to hear what happened with the $34 million owed CHCC since 2018. This includes millions in local appropriations approved by the Legislature and signed into law, as well as tens of millions in federal ARPA allocations promised to CHCC for hospital operations, medical referral, and an MRI unit that is so badly needed here. Where is the money? 

Contributing Author
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