On February 29, the public was invited to an open house for the new MiCare Health Plan office in Jose San Nicholas' still new Town Plaza Commercial building in Mapusi one block south of Dollar Up. Father Francis Hezel read from scripture and blessed the building. Director Yoshiwo George gave a short speech to the gathered participants before his wife Antilise George cut the ribbon allowing participants inside for a tour of the new office space and refreshments.
Perhaps if you didn't know better it would be easy to think that the financially embattled MiCare system is wasting money by moving into a new building. Director George mentioned MiCare's financial struggles in his own dedicatory speech. When he was asked about the wisdom of a move into such an attractive office space he was quick to point out that the old building limited access to its members many of whom are elderly or infirm. The new office is on the first floor with more available parking. As icing on the cake, it costs over $200 less per month than the old quarters.
Every penny counts for MiCare. The audited accumulated deficit from fiscal year 2005 stood at $1.45 million. George says that the current un-audited figure now stands at $1.6 million. This new figure is after the National Government injected $300,000 into the plan's coffers. The plan is in need of a cash transfusion if they are to survive. With that in mind, the MiCare Board recently approved a 10% premium increase that will take effect on March 1, 2007.
Yoshiwo said that for the most part people pay their premiums "pretty much on time." Those that don't pay on time face penalty fees and interest and could result in cancellation of their benefits. They would still face the possibility of court collection procedures and all of the court costs associated with that type of action. He said, "Since I came on board last March 2006, the plan has not experienced serious premium collection problems."
Indeed it is not that the collections are slow but that the amount collected is simply not enough. There is a bill pending in the FSM Congress to make enrollment for FSM National Government employees compulsory for all of the nearly 700 employees. George said, "If it can start with the National Government first, then the States, the municipalities, and the private sector…[this] will certainly broaden the base, which is needed for a better secured health plan."
To all of the members and participating entities in the MiCare Health Plan, Director George says, "…the system is experiencing some financial stress, however, it is doing its best to service the needs of the members. With the new and improved office, and the government interventions to generate additional revenues, the management is hopeful to work with all participating entities to keep the plan financially sustained and secured, and to offer broad and better healthcare benefits and services to the members."