Bill to create claims and clinical data warehouse at CHCC OK’d by House

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AFTER a lengthy discussion, the House of Representatives on Tuesday passed an amended version of Senate Bill 21-28, which would establish a claims and clinical data warehouse at the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.

The goal is to “improve accountability for how health insurance premiums are spent by requiring health insurance insurers and health care providers to submit reports on claims and clinical data to the insurance commissioner.”

Sixto Kaipat Igisomar

Authored by Sen. Sixto Igisomar, S.B. 21-28 will now return to the Senate.

Initially, Rep. Sheila Babauta expressed concerns about “new information” that came to light regarding the bill. “Is this going to increase insurance in the CNMI? We need to know,” she said.

She noted that the Saipan Chamber of Commerce emailed House members on Tuesday, reiterating the chamber’s opposition to the bill.

At a House session on Aug. 2, 2019, chamber executive director Maxine Laszlo spoke on behalf of the chamber to oppose the bill’s passage.

In her email on Tuesday, Laszlo told House members that the chamber and “insurance agencies within our collective kindly asked for a working group between the Department of Commerce, CHCC, and the insurers to address their concerns on how insurers would need to change operations to comply, and if CHCC and Commerce would have the capacity to quickly turn around information to the insurers to not hinder their operations.”

Laszlo said the chamber “has not been made aware of such a group, and the insurers are still concerned about the processes needed for both themselves and their respective government partners so that patients receive the most prompt health experiences.”

Babauta said she “supports the intent of the bill,” but added that it should be “tabled,” at least for another week or until the next House session so members can better understand its impact on their constituents.

“If amendments need to be made, we can still make them if we just table this until more information is received from insurance agencies,” Babauta stated. “Right now, insurance is already expensive. We need to know more information. We need to hear from the insurers.”

But House Floor Leader John Paul P. Sablan, other House members and House legal counsel Joe Taijeron said the bill “has been a working document that took more than six months to produce, and there has been ample opportunity for the insurers to come forward during that time to voice their concerns.”

Rep. Joseph Leepan Guerrero said the bill was first introduced in the previous Legislature.

“What is the whole rationale behind this [proposal to table the bill]? Where does an insurance company come into the picture? ... This email [from the chamber] is just today. Why did they not attend this committee meeting six months ago? Is it a practice that every time they have a concern, they send out an email to all members? My vote is yes on this. Let the full body decide. If it dies, it dies. If it passes, so be it.”

Representatives of two insurance providers who were in the gallery stated that they were just informed on Tuesday morning that S.B. 21-28 HS1 was on the session calendar.

Sablan and House Minority Leader Edwin Propst — a proponent of tabling the bill — told the representatives of insurance providers to speak before the House, but they said they could not comment without first consulting management.

Reps. Marco Peter and Jose Itibus — the chair of the House Committee on Health and Welfare — said the concerns raised by Rep. Babauta, the chamber, and insurance agencies have been addressed in the House amendments to the bill.

Itibus said the bill was drafted in consultation with representatives from the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp., and took into account the effects the bill would have on constituents, health insurance insurers, and health care providers.

Moreover, he said, the bill would not affect citizens who are not qualified for Medicaid.

After this clarification was made, the bill was passed by all 19 House members present. Rep. Tina Sablan was excused.

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