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Medicaid Funding Still Uncertain

It is uncertain whether provisions for funding will be included in Congress’ budget resolution.

The decision on how to address Puerto Rico’s healthcare fiscal abyss is still in limbo. US Congress is racing to pass a budget resolution this week to prevent a shutdown of the federal government. House Speaker Paul Ryan had previously stated his intention to deal with some of Puerto Rico’s health care fiscal issues in this spending bill. However, nothing substantial has emerged.

While members of Congress were in legislative recess earlier this month, government authorities and members of the private sector lobbied in Washington. Additionally, Resident Commissioner, Jenniffer González, has been in talks with Republican leaders in Congress and US Health Secretary Tom Price in an attempt to include a legislative vehicle for Puerto Rico in this fiscal bill. Earlier this month a bipartisan petition, signed by Republicans Orrin Hatch (Utah), Marco Rubio (Florida), and Democrats Robert Menéndez (New Jersey) and Bill Nelson (Florida), was sent to Secretary Price imploring him to facilitate a joint solution for the impending fiscal abyss of PR’s health system.

This week Secretary Price sent a letter to members of Congress informing them of Puerto Rico’s health crisis and the urgent need for additional Medicaid funding for the next fiscal year. However, Congress legislative response to this issue is still unknown. If new funds are not extended, Puerto Rico will revert to depending on a Medicaid cap allotment reducing the allocation to $350 million, instead of the nearly $1.55 billion received in total in 2016 — a loss of nearly $1.2 billion in Medicaid fund. In order to offset the depletion of these funds, the Puerto Rican Government is seeking to obtain a short-term allocation of between $650 million and $900 million per year.

More than half of Puerto Rico’s population currently relies on Medicaid and Medicare programs for health coverage. The Government of Puerto Rico’s Fiscal Plan has established that health care savings should reach $6.123 billion in 10 years. Plans to achieve these savings rely on the implementation of a fraud detection system, expense limits per patient and higher deductibles for non-essential benefits. 

Recent analysis made by the Rosselló administration indicates that Medicaid funds allocated by Obamacare could run out by the beginning of October, creating a budget gap of US $886 million in the next budget of the Government of Puerto Rico. The uncertain future of the island’s health care funding has led to the Oversight Board demanding that the long-term fiscal plan not included the funds currently allocated through Obamacare.

 

 

Kathya Severino Pietri
Wednesday, April 26, 2017 - 1:45pm