Puerto Rico stands to receive a $1 billion assignment from U.S. Congress under the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which would cover the local government’s public healthcare coverage plan for the medically indigent through Sept. 30, 2018, said Health Insurance Services Administration Executive Director Ángela Ávila.
The additional funding is part of a broader package approved in a bill passed at the U.S. Senate, which is now awaiting President Trump’s signature.
The additional $1 billion allocation will prevent Puerto Rico from running out of funds next year, a scenario island leaders have dubbed the “Medicaid cliff.” More than 60 percent of local residents receive Medicaid or Medicare benefits, and running out of money could leave them without healthcare coverage.
Ávila said she met with Sen. Mark Warner Monday morning, and was told the voting was “intense” because Democratic party lawmakers unanimously rejected the measure.
“He said the bill should be signed in the coming days,” she said. “Puerto Rico isn’t celebrating just yet, but it looks like that’s what we’re going to get. This assignment would allow us to finish the federal fiscal year, which ends in September 2018.”
ASES, as the agency she heads is known in Spanish, oversees the government’s public health plan, whose tab exceeds $1.6 billion a year.
Once the bill is signed and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services begins disbursing the funds, Puerto Rico will request an additional $40 million over the $150 million it receives monthly to address the hurricane-related emergency, she said.
“We have opened all sorts of medical services to the population, so they can receive care wherever they are. We want to prevent a public health situation beyond what we already have. We know these emergencies entail further funding,” she said, noting the agency will ask for the additional funds during three months.
The relief is only part of a broader relief package the federal government should approve to help Puerto Rico address the economic impact Hurricane María caused when it tore through the island Sept. 20.