Washington - The Puerto Rico Hospitals Association is still waiting for clarification on the access to assistance funds included in federal economic stimulus measures to address the coronavirus emergency.
Along with island officials, the Hospitals Association has asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to ensure that the nearly $175 billion allocated to assist hospitals, clinics, and health centers includes reimbursement for services paid by Medicare Advantage plans.
"I understand that the federal Health Department continues to review this request," said Hospitals Association Executive President Jaime Plá.
Through the CARES Act, Congress allocated $100 billion to hospitals and health centers on March 27. The new economic stimulus bill, which adds another $484 billion to the CARES Act, proposes an additional $75 billion for hospitals and health centers.
Of the first $100 billion package, the federal Health Department has begun to distribute $50 billion to hospitals and health care providers. A portion of the money will be limited to hardest-hit areas with most cases and patients with coronavirus, such as New York, New Jersey, Louisiana, and Michigan.
According to Plá, hospitals and about 6,000 health care providers have received about $42 million so far.
But the Hospitals Association fears that Puerto Rico's medical institutions will receive less than they should if services provided through Medicare Advantage plans, which total about 75 percent of Medicare patients on the island, are not reimbursed.
Through independent efforts, Wanda Vázquez Garced and Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González asked Congress to authorize funding for Medicare Advantage Plans as part of the hospitals relief effort.
The request - as well as a long list of other requests for Puerto Rico made by island authorities, Congress members, and civic groups - was not included in the bill signed Friday by President Donald Trump.
Puerto Rico is one of the few U.S. jurisdictions where a high percentage of Medicare patients receive their services through Medicare Advantage plans.
While waiting for a favorable decision from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, industry experts, according to Plá, are examining whether Medicare Advantage services can be included in the overall cost report.
The Hospitals Association has also asked Governor Vázquez Garced to include incentives for hospitals in the aid package that can be provided by the Puerto Rico government through the $2.2 billion that the federal Treasury disbursed this week to help the island with expenses related to the coronavirus emergency.