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(AP)

WASHINGTON - The Republican leadership of the US House of Representatives wants to move today a new $ 1 billion grant in Medicaid funds that would help postpone the fiscal abyss in the health care system of the Island for nearly a year.

The new allocation could be used from the moment of approval of the measure until the closure of 2019.

If approved, the legislation would allow Puerto Rico to postpone until the beginning of 2019 the fall in the fiscal abyss that threatens to cause the end of Medicaid funds provided by the Obamacare law.

The proposal is to be added today to the bill that seeks to reauthorize for five years the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). But, in practice, the new Medicaid funds, would last for about a year, under the current operation of the Mi Salud (My Health) plan of the government of Puerto Rico.

Right now, due to the end of Obamacare funds, there is a gap of about $ 369 million -between April and June 2018- compared to the level of allocations in recent years. If no new funds are granted, the fiscal gap in the health system could be of about $ 1.2 billion annually.

Resident Commissioner in Washington, Jenniffer Gonzalez, who has promoted the allocation, predicted yesterday that the measure will be approved in the committee and will be voted in the lower House next week.

The legislation would be one of the first initiatives of Congress to respong to the catastrophe that Hurricane Maria has caused in Puerto Rico.

"Preliminary evaluations by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) indicate that the recovery of Puerto Rico will be a long and arduous process," Gonzalez said in a letter sent yesterday to the Energy and Commerce Committee, Chairman, Greg Walden, and Democratic minority spokesman Frank Pallone.

Lobbyist and former Republican congressman, Jerry Weller, who represents the Hospital Association, said that although the allocation is of short duration, it is important for it to be legislated as an increase in the ceiling of Medicaid allowances.

By law, Puerto Rico receives $ 322 million a year in Medicaid funds. But the so-called Obamacare law has allowed Puerto Rico to receive up to an additional $ 1.2 billion a year.

Weller acknowledged that Gonzalez has pressed strongly within the legislative conference in favor of these funds.

Last spring, Congress -against the opposition of President Donald Trump- approved another $ 296 million allocation in Medicaid funds.

According to Jennifer Gonzalez, out of the $ 1 billion, the Board in charge of the public finances of Puerto Rico has the key to curb or give way to $ 120 million.

The language that might be approved today conditions $ 120 million for the Board to certify that the government of Puerto Rico has reduced fraud, unnecessary spending and abuse of the Medicaid program and that it implements strategies to reduce "unnecessary, inefficient or excessive" expenses.

The requirements imposed by the language for next allocations also demands to improve the quality of medical care.

"Before to the hurricanes, Puerto Rico was facing a fiscal abyss beginning in 2018. After Hurricanes Irma and Maria, Puerto Rico 's health care spending has skyrocketed, exacerbating the (fiscal) abyss, said the commissioner in a letter urging leaders of the Energy and Commerce Committee to address the issue in the CHIP bill, as suggested by speaker Paul Ryan.

Democrats have been pushing for any emergency assistance that includes tackling the fiscal abyss in Medicaid funds.

In the Senate, the Finance Committee is scheduled to vote today its own version on the five-year reauthorization of CHIP.

The Senate's original legislation does not include additional Medicaid funds for Puerto Rico, but traditional CHIP funds, which are currently $ 172 million annually and are also designated for the Mi Salud (My Health) plan of the Puerto Rican government.

But several sources in Congress hope that the worsening of the crisis on the island will facilitate the passage of the measure, although not with the five-year term proposed for the CHIP program.

According to Senate sources, there are talks with the lower House seeking to tune ideas.


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