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Sablan pointed out that the huge jump in funding is because of the new health care reform law, or “Obamacare.” The Northern Marianas will have $140 million in Medicaid grant funding available over the next eight years as a result of this landmark legislation.
The Obamacare Medicaidmoney began to be available on July 1; and as of September 30, the Commonwealth had already drawn down $8.1 million.
Sablan said that private medical providers in the Commonwealth contact him regularly with long overdue bills for Medicaid patients.
“I can verify to them that the federal government is transferring millions of dollars to the Commonwealth for Medicaid reimbursement,” Sablan said. “What the Commonwealth does with that money, however, is information I do not have access to.”
Sablan also said that he hopes the Commonwealth will “use the money wisely and spread its drawdowns over the full eight years, so we do not run short of Medicaid funds at the end.”
It is clear that the Commonwealth is not waiting to spend its millions from Obamacare. The budget the Commonwealth government is required to submit to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid annually calls for using $18.233 million in federal Medicaid grants in the fiscal year that started this October 1.
Obamacare was not the first increase in Medicaid funding since Sablan was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Even before the Obamacare money became available on July 1, the Commonwealth’s Medicaid grant had been increased 30 percent by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. So 2009 and 2010 Medicaid grants were about $6.5 million, not the $5 million Babauta cited.
Sablan pointed out in his letter that the Recovery Act was one of his very first votes in Congress and that not a single Republican had voted to increase Medicaid money for the Northern Marianas.
“Not one Republican voted for the Recovery Act, or for the two Obamacare bills, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act,” Sablan said.
Sablan corrected another inaccuracy: Babauta’s statement that the Northern Marianas has to make a 50 percent match for Medicaid grants.
“The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act lowered the Northern Marianas match to 45 percent and raised the federal share to 55 percent.
“That saves the Commonwealth $7 million over the 2011 to 2019 period,” Sablan calculated.
Sablan also updated Babauta on new legislation to further improve the federal-NMI match. “On September 15, I introduced the Health Equity and Accountability Act as an original co-sponsor,” he wrote.
“H.R. 2954 provides that in fiscal years 2012 and 2013 the federal share of Medicaid for the Northern Marianas and the other insular areas shall be the highest applicable to any of the 50 States. In subsequent years the federal share would be determined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with Commonwealth and other insular area governments.”
The Health Equity and Accountability Act has 72 co-sponsors, none of whom are Republicans.
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