Saipan—The Marianas Medicaid program, which has used up all funding for the year, will get an immediate $8.24 million, Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan announced Friday.
Sablan has been working with the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services address Medicaid funding for the Marianas ever since Super Typhoon Yutu in October caused a speed-up in spending. The Medicaid program provides health care for over 15,000 individuals in the CNMI.
In January, Sablan got the U.S. House of Representatives to increase emergency funding for Marianas Medicaid to $36 million in H.R. 268, a bill to help areas nationwide hit by typhoons, hurricanes, wildfires, and other natural disasters. But that legislation has been hung up in the Senate ever since.
Sablan has also proposed to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar that the $75 million set aside for territories in section 1323 of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, be used to meet immediate needs in the Marianas.
“In the meantime, CMS has informed me that $8.2 million in recovered funds are now available for the Marianas Medicaid program. This means our people can receive the care they need and vendors will get paid,” Sablan said. Medicaid accounts for over one-quarter of the revenue of the Marianas’ only hospital.
“I am very grateful to the hard-working professionals at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, given how desperate the situation is with our Medicaid program completely out of money. This interim solution is critical, until the Senate acts and while we explore the possibility of using the Affordable Care Act money.”
CMS contacted the Washington congressional office on Wednesday to say the agency was making $8.2 million immediately available for draw-down. The money was recovered from from unspent Medicaid grants to the Marianas from fiscal years 2012 through 2015 and from other previously awarded grant funds, also unspent.
As Vice Chair for Insular Affairs on the House Natural Resources Committee, Congressman Sablan is also putting together a hearing on the Medicaid funding crisis facing all the U.S. insular areas. One-time Affordable Care Act funds for American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the Marianas will no longer be available after this year. Each jurisdiction will have to make do just with the block grant it received before Obamacare was enacted in 2010.
The Marianas received $109,258,678 from Obamacare. The Marianas annual block grant is only $6,700,000.
“Holding a hearing is one tool we have in Congress to make sure this ‘Medicaid cliff’ at the end of the year gets action,” Sablan said.
“We cannot let anyone forget how many people in the Marianas and all the other insular areas depend on Medicaid for their health care, and how important Medicaid revenue is to the hospital and the other providers everyone in our islands goes to for care.”
Vice Chair Sablan said he expects to announce an exact date for the hearing shortly.