Medical Card System Inc. announced it has invested some $60 million through Oct. 1 to help improve the social determinants that affect the chronic conditions of more than 121,000 of its members. The investment includes $16 million for its “MCS Classicare Te Paga Card-The Original” initiative.
The benefits of the card, which is approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, MCS Classicare promotes the purchase of healthy food at participating establishments on the island, where more than 42% of the population has one or more risk factors for developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other chronic conditions.
The card’s flexibility also pays for water, electricity and phone, and represents a relief to the pockets of 40% of the population age 60 or older living under the poverty level, according to the 2015 Census.
To carry out the effort, MCS has formed a multisector alliance with the food, banking and telecommunications industries, as well as with other retailers.
“These strategic alliances with Banco Popular, mobile phone company Claro, and the island’s principal supermarkets have constituted an unprecedented effort in Puerto Rico,” said MCS COO Roberto Torres.
“At this historic time throughout the island, these alliances and investments are further evidence of our genuine commitment to continuing to improve our members’ healthcare experience,” he said.
“This, without losing perspective on the enormous secondary effect it has for the island’s economy,” he said, adding that the company will continue expanding its service provider network.
The insurance provider cited a recent public opinion study commissioned by the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce that showed that, 88% of those surveyed confirmed that the money they received from the Nutritional Assistance Program after the pandemic did not allow them to afford their food.
“The current medical literature shows that these social and economic factors are essential in promoting a human being’s overall physical and mental health,” said MCS Chief Medical Officer Inés Hernández.
“Often, one’s health is affected because the person does not have enough financial resources, and decides to pay his or her bills instead of getting the medications or healthy food needed to control that individual’s conditions,” she said.
“Therefore, so that money is not an obstacle to proper health care, we at MCS had the vision to be the first in the industry to create the ‘Te Paga’ benefit to address those social determinants that influence both the health and quality of life for our elderly,” Hernández said.
The quarterly amount assigned to the card depends on the product to which the member belongs, and cannot be converted into cash.
“Caring for the health and total well-being of our members also includes protecting them from abuse and mistreatment during difficult times,” said Hernánde, adding that financial exploitation is the second most common form of abuse addressed by the Office of the Ombudsman for the Elderly in Puerto Rico.
“To prevent third parties from taking ownership of this benefit and protecting our members from this kind of abuse, we don’t allow cash to be withdrawn from the card,” she said.
The card’s available balance can only be verified by calling the MCS Service Centers or at any ATM in Banco Popular’s network.