Washington- The head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee plans to approve in July legislation seeking to avoid the fiscal cliff in Puerto Rico's health system, which is feared to leave nearly 600,000 people without a medical plan and requires an allocation of at least $1.2 billion annually.
Frank Pallone, chairman of the Committee, said the measure- which will also address the crisis in access to Medicaid funds in the other territories -will first go to the Health subcommittee and then to a vote in the committee.
Pallone said both voting sessions must take place before the August recess. His goal is to have the legislation ready so that no later than September it can go to a full House vote.
The U.S. House began an 11-day recess Thursday. It will then have a three-week session in July before the August recess that will last until September.
Pallone indicated that Puerto Rican Democrat Nydia Velázquez's bill that promotes Puerto Rico's full access to the Medicaid program is serving as a “road map.”
However, in a brief interview, Pallone seemed inclined to seek a temporary solution. Some sources indicate that the Democratic leadership can opt for a two-year allocation.
“We're trying to do it for a long period of time, but it will depend on how much money we have and how to pay for it,” Pallone told El Nuevo Día.
Válazquez's bill proposes a $15.1 billion allocation over the next five years, followed by a transition process that will allow full access to Medicaid.
When she testified before Congress in recent weeks, the now former director of the Health Insurance Administration (PRHIA) Ángeles Ávila argued that the health care system could go into a fiscal cliff in April 2020.
The Puerto Rican government may run out of non-permanent Medicaid funding in December, including both the $4.8 billion in emergency aid approved in February 2018 and the remaining $586 million from the Obamacare law.
Any legislation will require a bipartisan agreement in the Republican-controlled Senate to be signed into law.
Republican Senator Rick Scott said they will look for a fair solution. “The way it is, Medicaid doesn't make sense. Florida receives half of what New York receives, and Puerto Rico much less (funding). We have to make a general evaluation. If it's a social safety net, everyone has to be treated fairly,” Scott said.
A spokesman for Republican Senator Marco Rubio said there have already been discussions about Medicaid and Puerto Rico within the Senate majority.