(GFR Media)

Washington - The $235 million left from the $4.8 billion allocation in emergency Medicaid funds - which was aimed at helping the government of Puerto Rico fund its health plan at least during October - could not be used.

Contrary to what Puerto Rican authorities announced, the language of the temporary spending bill that has allowed the Puerto Rican government to continue using federal Medicaid funds to fully finance the government's health plan until Nov. 21 did not authorize extending the use of the $4.8 billion allocated in early 2018 after the catastrophe caused by Hurricane María.

Yolanda García, Deputy Director of the Health Insurance Administration (PRHIA), told El Nuevo Día that since October 1 they only have the remaining $586 million in Obamacare funds, which expire on December 31 and cannot be fully invested.

García estimates that by the end of the year, they would not have used some $40 million of the Medicaid allocations authorized by Obamacare.

However, things don´t seem to have changed for 2020.

García said last week that without new federal allocations, Medicaid funds will run out in March, creating a cliff of hundreds of millions of dollars for this Puerto Rican fiscal year, which ends in June 2020. The fiscal cliff is even bigger for the federal fiscal year ending September 2020.

As the Senate and House leadership negotiate the extension of the temporary spending resolution, which expires Sept. 21, a new allocation of Medicaid funds remains in limbo.

Not only are there differences between the Senate and the House over the level of allocations, but over the oversight measures to be imposed on the government of Puerto Rico after last July's corruption cases involving former PRHIA director Ángela Ávila and contractors Fernando Scherrer, former BDO Puerto Rico executive, and Alberto Velázquez Piñol.

House Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Maryland) said heexpects a new -next week- temporary resolution to extend the current federal budget at least until mid-December.

The resolution is expected to include some language on Medicaid and the territories, but it may only be directed - like the current one – to keep the federal Medicaid service contribution at 100 percent.

By permanent law, the federal government limits Medicaid allocations to Puerto Rico to about $375 million annually and the U.S. contribution to 55 percent for services provided.

Since early 2018, after the catastrophe caused by Hurricane María, the federal government has fully funded the Puerto Rican government's health plan through a $4.8 bilion emergency allocation.

Those funds are no longer available since October 1, when there were only $235 million left, according to PRHIA.

Although emergency funds were used at about $217 million monthly, and there is an $586 million pack of Obamacare left, PRHIA deputy director believes those funds left from the law signed by former President Barack Obama will allow the Puerto Rican government to finance the island's health plan through December.

Without a new Medicaid funds allocation, the Puerto Rican government will have $375.1 million left under the permanent law, in addition to $86.2 million from the federal Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and $59.37 million from the Enhanced Allotment Plan (EAP), García said in a statement.

In other words, as of January, the island´s government will have $250 million in federal funds left for a program that costs an average of $217 million monthly.


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