19 Oct 2017
- By Lori Lyn C. Lirio – [email protected] – Variety News Staff
GOVERNOR Ralph D.L.G. Torres approved the increase in room and board fees of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. and signed the document on Oct. 4, 2017, CHCC Chief Executive Officer Esther Muna said in an interview.
“We went through an emergency route. We are required by law to put our fees in the Commonwealth Register and in order for you to go to the Commonwealth Register it has to go first to me, by law, and not to the [CHCC] board. I am following the law. The fees were published legally. And it went through the governor and the governor signed it.”
She said the rate increase will not affect the indigent population because it is the CNMI’s responsibility to pay for their care.
“We have a sliding fee if you are indigent. We are not going to deny services. If you cannot pay then we will put you in that category. The reality is, the CNMI government is responsible for the indigent population, and CHCC has to find ways to make enough revenue to provide the services that we are responsible for.”
Muna said the new rates will allow the hospital to survive. “We have to recognize the fact that there is additional expense and we need to pay for it. The CNMI has a responsibility to the people.”
Muna said the fee increase could have been avoided if the Legislature appropriated enough funding for CHCC.
“We thought we would be getting some support from the Legislature to be able to take care of the cost of care. We did wait. But when it comes to hospital care, we only got $825,000 from the government.”
Muna said they requested $16.3 million for indigent care. “We were fools to believe that the budget appropriation would come. It did not.”
In raising the hospital’s room and board rates, Muna said they are also giving the insurance companies an opportunity to negotiate with CHCC.
“Come up with a reasonable time to pay and we’ll give them a discount. If they do their job by paying us on time, most likely they are not going to pay the rate that we announced because we will charge them a negotiated rate which is acceptable to us and to them. But we will have no leverage if our rate is low,” she added.
In providing healthcare services, CHCC has to pay for doctors, nurses, medical supplies, among many other things, Muna said.
“Unfortunately, there is no law in the CNMI that says CHCC has to get reimbursed immediately. We have to wait for the insurance company to pay.”
Muna said they will announce more rate increases.
CHCC is not only a hospital, but also a healthcare system, she added. “We want to be able to make money and we also want to save money. How do you cut cost? By ensuring that people will continue to see their doctors and avoid hospitalization. [Otherwise,] we are only increasing the cost of hospitalization for patients who are sick. So we are encouraging people to continue to access clinic services so they can avoid being hospitalized. The idea is not to make people sick; the idea is to try to discourage hospitalization. What really cost us the most is hospitalization — utility bills, medical supplies, pharmaceutical things. These cost us a lot of money.”
Source: Marianas Variety : http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/99423-governor-ok-d-new-chcc-rates-muna-says