Unsafe to Live in the CNMI?

January 27, 2012

The CNMI may just be the most dangerous place to live on U.S. soil. I am not talking about the crime, although there certainly is a proportionately large amount for such a small population. I am talking about unstable utilities, a retirement fund on the verge of collapse, an inadequate health care system and incompetent and corrupted leaders that are apparently incapable of coming up with a plan to raise revenue.

Yesterday I drove by a billboard that announced that the lottery prize was $146 million. It struck me that the amount is more than the entire annual budget of the CNMI, which is $102 million. Surely, even considering the small population, a property or sales tax could raise much needed revenue, but leaders stubbornly resist imposing any taxes. It seems that the leaders just wait for money to come from some illusive investment scheme or think that the federal taxpayers will provide a bail out so they act as if there were no emergency or need to come up with a revenue raising plan now (or realistically, yesterday).

The media is constantly reporting the devastating financial condition of the CNMI agencies, departments and government in general and questioning the actions of the leaders. The most important question is what impact does and will the further economic collapse have on the people living in the CNMI?  How long can or will people remain in such an unstable and dangerous place?

Living in the CNMI may be like playing Russian Roulette. If a person contracts a serious disease or has an accident he/she may not be able to get proper medical treatment. And since Saipan, Rota and Tinian are islands, it's not like a person could easily get to another city or state for treatment. There are serious risks in living in the CNMI today.

The island's only hospital is virtually bankrupt. The signs were evident for years. As it was continuously reported on Unheard No More! and in the media over the last two years, nurses were not being paid regularly and were not receiving their housing allowances on time.  The number of nurses declined from 235 in 2010 to 175 in June 2011 resulting in a nursing shortage.  A shortage of doctors was reported in July 2011. In November 2010 the children's clinic was closed because there were no pediatricians.

In 2009 the hospital was placed under a "state of emergency." In July 2011, Lt. Governor Inos declared a "state of emergency" again, as vendors refused to send supplies until past debts were paid. In July 2011 it was reported that the hospital owed over $2.9 million to vendors who stopped supplying critical goods, including pharmaceutical, medical, and dialysis supplies.  This week the Marianas Variety reported that payroll for the 630 employees cannot be met, housing allowances are unpaid, and there are not even supplies to conduct lab tests. Aren't people taking their chances living in a place with no stable or functioning hospital?

It was also reported that the hospital has $24 million in uncollected bills.  I would guess that many of the $24 million in unpaid bills are those of employers who failed to pay their foreign workers' medical expenses, as was required by CNMI law and contract.  After all, hundreds of employer-crooks stole millions in wages from foreign workers and the CNMI government did nothing. Even with a collection agency, the CNMI government cannot expect that a significant amount of the past debts will be collected from a population of people that has never been held accountable for paying wages or bills.

How does a business get to the point that the collectables are $24 million?  This did not happen in a year, or two years or even three years. Obviously, the hospital's administration that oversees operations, including the collection of bills and paying vendors, has been a complete failure for years. Where is the oversight?

The governor's solution to the hospital's woes seems to have been turning the hospital into a public corporation (October 2011) and appointing former Governor Juan Babauta to administer it.  I am not sure how this can be seen as a solution. It is just taking a failed entity and slapping a new name on it since only $5 million was budgeted for the hospital for this fiscal year and the Marianas Variety reports that inadequate sum will be spent by this summer.

Not surprisingly, the Marianas Variety reported that a physician said that the staff feels "terrified and hopeless." Of course they do.  They do not know how long they will be paid, if they will be paid, and even if there will be the needed supplies to perform their critical services. People who live in the CNMI are risking their lives and the lives of their children. After all there is only one hospital on each island and all three are operating at dangerously inadequate levels.

The CNMI government announced that Medicaid money will be capped at $5.3 million for 2012, with $4 million going to the hospital and only $1.3 to be shared among over 20 Medicaid-approved private clinics of medical offices. The 2011 Medicaid spending far exceeded this amount. The Marianas Variety reported:
Reductions to affect Saipan’s private providers will be even more horrific.

Total 2011 billings hovered around $9 million and their new cap was set at $1.3 million.

The loss of $7.7 million equals an 86 percent gutting of funding.

Considering one pharmacy alone billed Medicaid close to $2 million dollars in 2011, the impact to providers will be catastrophic.

While CHC will pick-up a majority of current Medicaid clients, the 57 percent overall program-funding reductions will result in fewer clients served or rationing of healthcare among the poor.

Either or both of these outcomes will devastate services for the approximately 6,400 people in the Medicaid program, over half of which are children.
The governor falsely claimed that the reason for the reduction in Medicaid funds was higher federal matching requirements, but the percentage of the match actually fell by 5%. Even more scary is the fact that the Ester Muna, past financial officer of the hospital (the hospital with $24 million in collectables), is now charged with overseeing the Medicaid billing. She will be making decisions as to what spending is allowed and what is not allowed. Will she also be making decisions on who will be treated and who will not be treated under the program? We know how that worked in the NAP Office. It was the U.S. citizen children of foreign workers who were singled out not to get food stamps.

It certainly looks like the weakest and poorest residents will again be the recipients of cruel decisions of the CNMI governor who has refused to support food stamp increases by rejecting applying the SNAP Program to the CNMI and has now slashed Medicaid funding.

Amazingly, this cash-strapped, near bankrupt government finds money for off-island trips, to fund indigenous affairs and other non-critical government offices, to hire numerous outside consultants, and to pay for lawsuits against the federal government.


Anonymous said...

If you care for your children you might want to consider moving away. CHC is in dismal shape. If you or your child has a medical emergency you are essentially screwed. Anything more than a broken bone will land you on Guam - hours away. If an MD at CHC sets your child on fire, which has happened, all you will get is 50k. That's it by law. Don't be selfish and foolhardy, get your kids out of there before something serious happens.

Anonymous said...

I can justify saying that each of those issues that are so messed up are because of the Contract Workers, mostly overstayers, illegals, and baby anchor makers. They have leached the life out of our economy and sent most of the money off island. They want all the rights of U.S. citizens but then turn around as say something as ignorant as "But we do not want to pay Fica like we have not for decades. Only Locals should pay these taxes. Leave please so we can heal our wounds.

Wendy Doromal said...

Anonymous 7:05 No, those issues mentioned here are the result of action (or inaction) of the CNMI government. The foreign workers are not the cause of the problems, but certainly are victims of them. Things are messed up in the CNMI because of the corruption and missteps of the elected officials.

Anchor baby makers? So if a local has a baby that's okay, but if a foreign worker couple who has been in the CNMI for say 20 years has a family, then the children are anchor babies? You are a blatant racist like so many of the people in the CNMI. (Another reason that the CNMI is unsafe.) The foreign workers have not leached anything. In fact, their employers have stolen from them! They have contributed to the CNMI economy. In case you did not notice, the economy gets worse as more of the workers leave. They shop, pay utilities , pay rent and pay for other commodities and services. As more leave, the economy will shrink even more. Where a person spends the money that they earn is their business, not yours or anyone else's. What do say about the local people who send their children in the states money for their college and such? Why should the foreign workers pay FICA taxes when they are TEMPORARY workers who will most likely never accumulate 40 quarters (10 years) of work on US soil, which is the minimum required to collect SS? You are the ignorant one, the racist one. Of course, they will leave and the CNMI will be the worse for their exodus.

Anonymous said...

Wendy, the arguments you make have lost steam and need to be stretched even farther to make any sense,, the old if, a can mean d then g is related to q so some how it comes back to y so then a must be correct. We are not seeing a loss to the economy because foreigners are leaving, that is a miniscule reason behind it. Yes, the fact that someone who has a child here, and check the stats many of the kids being used as a reason behind a request for parole as the parent of a USC are less than five years old, many having been born since federalization being effected. Using a child as the reason for your requested permission to stay here would be defined as an "anchor" look up the definition of anchor. That child is used by the parents as their means to anchor themselves to the CNMI. There are no other means for those parents to "anchor" themselves to the CNMI legally. CHC spends lots of money on unreimbursed expenses for foriegn nationals, to not accept that as the truth is lving in a fantasy world. do they lose money on unpaid bills by local USCs, yep sure do, the difference is they are USCs and that is a big difference, whether we want a lazy USC who won't pay their bills here they have the right to be under the law because they are USCs. Foreigners are here under strict guidlines and if they violate those guidelines, i.e. overstay, violate the conditions, or are unable to qualify for a status then they must go. Fair, no but it is about time this country got it back in their heads the world ain't fair, never has been regardless what the good folks from the '60s thought after smoking too much dope people better understand it or at least accept it as the harsh reality of the real world.......

Capt said...

Good article Wendy, so true.

Wendy Doromal said...

8:35 You are a racist. "Look it up" (to use your phrase.) It is wrong to suggest that a family has a child to be used as an "anchor"! So you think that foreigners have children to serve as anchors, not because they want a family, just like every other couple who makes the decision to have children? The foreign workers are in no way "anchored" to the CNMI by having a child. There is currently no law that "anchors" them.

And of course, we all know that there has been an economic crash world-wide, but part of the CNMI's economic problem (aside from the fact that no leader has a plan to raise revenue) has been the loss of population, which results in the closure of businesses and less customers to businesses that are open. That is a mathematical fact.

Do you not know that by CNMI law and contract the employer, including US citizens was responsible to pay the medical bills of all of their foreign employees? It is not the foreign workers who did not pay the VAST majority of the unpaid medical bills.

The world isn't "fair", but it could be. Justice-minded people work to make the world a better and "fairer" place.

The Saipan Blogger said...

CHC is in trouble because they don't even bill for services! I had an emergency room visit in 2005 that I was never billed for and when I inquired, there was no record. Thanks, CHC!

Anonymous said...

The world is not fair by the fact that the "world" is much more than just human beings being on it. Human beings have come up with this idea that the world needs to be fair, it ain't and never will be. the USA is about as close to fair as any nation and anyone who has had a chance to live, no matter how short a duration, and be a part of this country should be thankful. If they want to come here, as virtually all the worlds population does, then they need to find a means that would allow them to come to the U.S. and I don't mean just the CNMI and if eligible, then do it legally. I don't mean use a child as a basis of why you should be allowed to stay. Have all the kids you want AND CAN AFFORD TO SUPPORT AT YOUR OWN EXPENSE, people tend to overlook that part. But don't use the kids as a reason to be allowed to stay here. When people do so it really turns off most Americans. If you don't think people are doing this to anchor themselves to the U.S. then it is obvious that you are too vested in one position to be objective. Do I believe all foreigners should leave, of course not, if you have a job at a legitimate employer and they need you then stay until your visa expires....if you are eligible for some other status apply and good luck but when the time comes leave without whining..........

Anonymous said...

Noni 7:05. The only locals that pay into FICA are the ones that work for the private sector.
Of the CW, all except the Phil. and Koreans have been paying into FICA over the years. Many for 10,15, and 20+ yrs.
Unlike the NMI Govt. workers who will have nothing to fall back on when the fund is gone.
The Japanese Govt. has a deal with the US that US SS taxes paid by the Japanese people will be added to the Japan SS and paid to their retirees.

The ones that have paid into FICA for at least ten years will be able to collect when they reach the required age from where ever they reside (in most cases)
The ones that have paid into FICA for 5 yrs will be able to get compensation for a permanent disability after one year.
Also children with disabilities are also eligible for benefits.
Unlike our people that have worked for the NMI Govt. all of their lives. They will have nothing when the Fund collapses.

The majority of recipients of Medicaid and Food Stamps are all local. The amount of CW US children and minimal compared to the rest of the numbers.
These and many other services are funded by the Feds. NOT by the NMI Govt.

CUC, the hospital and the rest of the Govt. agencies have been run into the ground by our elected and connected families over the years.
These people are elected and appointed because of their family name and not because of education, knowledge and experience.
The voters keep electing these misfits because of relationships and not because they are qualified.

Over the years the same people have abused the CW system, even after repeated warnings from the US Govt.(thus now the Fed takeover)and the present problems.

I have watched this transpire since after the war up to the present with this bunch of criminals and uneducated useless career politicians.
There are some problems concerning the CW but most of these where brought on by the greedy families that abused the system for their own greed. We all know who they are.
They kept the private sector wages down while increasing the Govt sector wages to keep the voters in the Govt. so the prominent families and career politicians could intimidate and threaten the vote from other families with the high paying Govt. jobs.

Our people had better wake up before it is too late. (if not already)

Anonymous said...

So true, all of it. We need to make plans to get out fast. The worse is yet to come and isn't far a way. If there's enough food to feed only some people it won't be foreigners who get fed. If there's only enough medicines to heal some people it won't be the foreigners who get any.Lots no it's time to go but don't have the cash for air fare.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Wendy. Another point is that the off island medical referral plan is controlled by the governor and his henchmen. What are the chances that a seriously ill alien will get an off island referral? Someone needs to tell the leaders in the aliens' countries that the CNMI is in a state of emergency in case they want to airlift them out.

the teacher said...

This is a great blog post, nothing new, but good anyway. I know very few people here not planning a fall back strategy, or exit plan. Many, like in the US, have much of their personal assets in their home, which is upside down. So they are now hanging around hoping for a dumb, loaded foreign national to overpay to assume the expiring lease.

We must have a property and sales tax...period,

CHC is in crisis and naming Juan head of the corp was a sarcastic joke.

We have felon department heads, which wouldn't be quite so bad but they are also unqualified.

The retirement fund is a disaster and will have the NMI on its knees to join with Guam, so between now and then, its a kleptocracy.

Anonymous said...

BTW for those that do not know yet, this Gov. at the luncheon meeting the other day, has plans to sell all of the Govt lease land to the lessee's.
The Hotels and Golf courses "for big bucks"
He wants the law changed to be able to do this. "A one time deal".

Anonymous said...

Wonder who gets the kickbacks? Does Fitial look more and more like the Godfather or is it just me?

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Wendy. I appreciate your concern and diligence. Donna J. Cruz

Anonymous said...

Racist uh? Being a U.S. citizen is not aq given. Those that have been here over 5 years should have already have a green card if, and only if, they were willing to file the paperwork and pay the fees like everyone else in the world that wants to be in the U.S. They (contract workers) have by far made more then locals in any job they had here (housing, food allowance, medical, no fica, etc). How many what I call anchor babies were born not to a couple but to a single woman? Many, and I know a bunch. Remember the web site "Saipan baby? Just another CW scam. Remember the CW lawsuits? 50 to 100 in the same day for the same thing. Just another scam to allow them to stay longer than their permits. Do not even try to call me a racist because I speak the truth. Bottom line, they were here to work and send money home, but most just want a way to get to the U.S. FREE. Get a life and admit you are wrong.

Wendy Doromal said...

Anonymous 7:29

Yes, racist concepts.

You said:"Those that have been here over 5 years should have already have a green card if, and only if, they were willing to file the paperwork and pay the fees like everyone else in the world that wants to be in the U.S. I wish this were true, but it is NOT. The foreign workers who have been in the CNMI 5, 10, 15, 20 or more years can only get a green card if their U.S. citizen spouse applies for them or if a U.S. citizen child 21 years of age or older applies for them. No others qualify or have a pathway. There is NO other paperwork for the others! None.

You said: They (contract workers) have by far made more then locals in any job they had here (housing, food allowance, medical, no fica, etc). Sorry, but the majority of the foreign workers have been cheated in one way or another. Cheated on pay, illegal deductions, or other contract violations. If we looked at the CHC billings I bet that among many unpaid bills are those that employers did not pay for their employee's medical care, as was CNMI law. Even with the benefits, the wages are so low (and until we pushed for the minimum wage to be increased were at an inhumane level) that most of the foreign workers still live well below the poverty level. When your governor schemed with Willie Tan and other greedies to implement the foreign worker program it was to fill his own pockets for personal gain. When the greedy businessmen and schemers brought in tens of thousands of workers to work for paltry wages it created a system of low paying private sector jobs vs high paying government jobs. US citizens rejected low paying jobs in the private workforce. To earn a decent living they had to get a government job. This system CNMI leaders created fueled poverty, corruption and contributed to the economic mess in the CNMI today.

You said: "How many what I call anchor babies were born not to a couple but to a single woman? Many, and I know a bunch." This is racist. It does not matter whether a foreign worker couple or single foreign worker woman has a baby, it is their right and their choice. How many teenage girls and women in the CNMI have been single and have had a child? You do not know their motive and it is not your business. In fact, since US citizen children cannot apply for green cards for their foreign parents until they are 21, this is not a reasonable argument. The Korean baby scam where pregnant Korean woman purposely went to the CNMI on vacation to deliver their baby is another story. The CNMI is the home of the foreign workers who have had a child the CNMI. Did you expect a foreign worker who has lived and worked in the CNMI for 5, 10, 20 or more years to return to their homeland to deliver their child?

You said:"Just another scam to allow them to stay longer than their permits." They do NOT get to stay longer if they have a child in the CNMI.

You said: "Bottom line, they were here to work and send money home, but most just want a way to get to the U.S. FREE. Yes, that is what your leaders told you. They told you that the guest worker program would help the CNMI, that it would bring in cheap labor and grow the economy. They lied. It was a program created to fill their own pockets and cheat most of the workers. It was a program where the CNMI government ALLOWED and ENCOURAGED annual renewals so that the guest workers became de facto citizens after having spent all of their adult lives living and working in the CNMI. They were renewed legally year after year after year by the CNMI government. They should be given permanent residency (green cards) so they are free to stay if they have a job and can leave to the US if they do not. Among the only people who got US citizenship "free" are the Chamorros and Carolinians who received it in the 1980's.

Anonymous said...

Maybe if you actually lived here, (now, not many years ago), you would understand what is going on instead of simply listening to hearsay from a select few. Check the birth records for Oct and Nov last year. A record number of non resident births, hummm, why in these 2 months? Ah, parole in anticipation of HR 1466. It worked. Single or married, unemployed non residents get to leach a bit longer. Anyways, any logical or realistic statement posted on this site that does not fit in your thinking is attacked and justified by the same old 4 or 5 statements you always make. It is like talking to a child that only can say 5 words.

Wendy Doromal said...

Anonymous 7:24

If it's the truth, it's worth repeating, especially when so many ignorant racists keep repeating lies. You actually think people had children in an attempt to gain parole that was not even in existence when the woman was pregnant? Do you not know that childless foreign workers were granted humanitarian parole!?

So if it sounds like 5 words listen up again: "Your claims are factless _________." (People, just put the word of your choice here to make five words.)

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:39

You are absolutely IGNORANT old racist!!!

You said, remember the website "Saipan Baby? Just another CW scam....

Yes it's a scam! but they're not CWs!!!! It's a business by swindlers....dig deeper and you'll find out! It might be a slap on your face!