CNMI- Governor vetoes Medicaid personnel bill

MM Curator summary

[MM Curator Summary]: The Governor of CNMI has shot down a bill that would codify various authorities for the Medicaid agency.


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GOVERNOR Ralph DLG Torres on Friday vetoed House Bill 22-53, which proposes to “further enable recruitment, retention and appropriate classification and compensation” in the Commonwealth Medicaid Agency.

Introduced by Rep. Leila Fleming Staffler, the bill aims to:

1) Codify the authority of the Medicaid director to reprogram funding appropriated for Medicaid program among the established business units in a fiscal year budget;

2) Direct the Office of Personnel Management to undertake a repricing study for eligibility, enrollment, claims processing, and health information technology personnel and retention based on the classification and compensation of Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.; and

3) Authorize OPM to hire Medicaid Enterprise System, data analysis, program integrity, and auditing personnel under excepted service employment contracts until the market-based repricing classification and compensation study is completed.

According to the bill, the CNMI government’s fiscal year 2021 budget established a Compliance and Medicaid Enterprise System as a new business unit “to balance the program needs for administration and medical reimbursement with the legal requirements of Title XIX of the Social Security Act.”

In addition, the Legislature also provided the Medicaid director the authority to reallocate the funds appropriated in the budget law.

H.B. 22-53 clarifies the authority of the Medicaid director to reprogram funds among the Medicaid business units categories or any other business units the Legislature may establish in the appropriation measure.

The bill also stated that positions for Medicaid Enterprise System personnel approved and funded, at a minimum, with 50% to 90% federal funds, as approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, “have yet to be recruited, resulting in delays to important project activities and time lines.”

The measure states that “specialized health information technology and Medicaid data analytics personnel required by Medicaid are in short supply until OPM is able to undertake a market-based classification and compensation pricing study for health information technology and data analytics personnel that, in minimum, reflects the comparable classification compensation of like positions at CHCC.”


In his veto message, the governor said due to ambiguities in the language of the bill as noted by the attorney general, and similar concerns of OPM, “I must respectfully exercise my constitutional authority to veto this bill.”

He said if approved, the measure would create a narrow exception to the reprogramming restrictions in the Planning and Budgeting Act, with regard to the Medicaid Agency.

He said funds appropriated to the Medicaid Agency may be reprogrammed by the director regardless of whether the funds are for personnel or non-personnel expenditures.

Right now, the governor said, the Planning and Budgeting Act permits the reprogramming of funds from personnel to non-personnel or operations, but not vice versa.

The governor also noticed that the bill would require OPM to establish personnel positions for the Medicaid Agency that fall under Medicaid Enterprise System. The MES positions, he added, are approved by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

OPM is further tasked with performing a review and study of the classification of personnel required by the Medicaid program with classification and compensation rates comparable to CHCC and private insurers and providers.

In recruiting prospective employees, the governor said OPM would be directed to interview and employ individuals who have demonstrable and specific knowledge, skills, experience, training and abilities applicable in Medicaid administration and similar healthcare management and analytics program.

But the governor said H.B. 22-53 would exempt MES employees from the civil service system. Upon completion of OPM’s classification and compensation study to be approved by the Medicaid director, the MES employees may opt to convert to the civil service system and become civil service employees.

According to the governor, the attorney general makes it clear that Legislature’s lawmaking authority over the civil service system “is not plenary.” Only the Civil  Service Commission has the authority over civil service system and is the sole authority to exempt positions from civil service classification, the governor said.


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