NMI Healthcare Corporation’s Correction Plan Accepted

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NMI Healthcare Corporation’s Correction Plan Accepted Federal authorities will no longer terminate certification

By Moneth Deposa

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Feb. 8) – The threat of decertification by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMMS) no longer looms for the Northern Marianas’ Commonwealth Health Center (CHC), according to Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. CEO Juan N. Babauta.

The corporation received yesterday a notice from CMMS notifying local health officials that the 217-page Plans of Corrections recently submitted to the federal agency has been accepted.

Acceptance of the report means complete elimination of the threat of decertification for CHC, Babauta said.

The termination date for CMMS participation was supposed to be on Feb. 11, but because of Medicare's acceptance of the plan of corrections, the clock for termination has stopped.

Babauta lauded corporation officials and employees for all the hard work they did to put together the critical response to the CMMS citations. He also expressed gratitude to the medical team from U.S. Health and Human Services who are on 90-day mission at CHC, the partnership shown by the Office of Insular Affairs and the Governor's Office, and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who recently sent her chief of staff Sally Howard to the CNMI, for demonstrating their concern for the public hospital. He said their assistance was key to addressing all deficiencies uncovered at the hospital.

It was earlier disclosed that the hospital would lose about $22 million a year if CHC's condition of participation with CMMS is terminated. This amount covers $12 million in yearly reimbursement from Medicare patients and $10 million reimbursement from Medicaid clients in the Commonwealth.

According to Babauta, the CMMS' acceptance of the plan of corrections also means that the corporation is no longer required to submit a final report on Feb. 10.

However, a team from CMMS is expected anytime soon to do a complete survey of the hospital. Medicare's visit is always unannounced.

CHC was slapped with three immediate jeopardy statuses in September last year after the discovery of serious deficiencies at the hospital, in addition to other citations uncovered at the end of the survey visit.

With the team of medical experts from HHS about to exit next month, Babauta emphasized the importance of sustaining all positive changes at the hospital.

"Although CMMS had accepted our report, our challenge ahead is how we can sustain all this progress and that's what we're discussing with the HHS team and our partners. We want to follow all recommendations of the team so that we are in compliance with all the standards," Babauta told Saipan Tribune.

Three months after the CMMS visit, corporation officials say they have made great strides that will bring the island's lone public hospital to a more stable condition.

Among the improvements noted at CHC were the procurement of a state-of-the-art CT scan machines; 10 new defibrillators; procurement of a new dishwasher for dietary unit; upgrades in the medication rooms; and new boiler.

Also established is a governing body for the corporation; policies and procedures at various hospital units; hiring of more billers and coders; and key hospital personnel, among others.

The corporation took over the hospital's operation and two clinics in fiscal year 2011.

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