CMCPR president accuses fiscal board of neglecting health services to 200,000 citizens

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @PCorreaHenry

Special to The Star

A day after the Star reported that Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón filed an amendment to House Resolution 8319 so that $1.1 billion in Medicaid funds authorized by Congress for the current fiscal year ending Sept. 30, but yet to be approved for use by the Financial Oversight and Management Board, can be rolled over into the next fiscal year, Physicians and Surgeons Association of Puerto Rico (CMCPR by its Spanish initials) President Víctor Ramos said Tuesday that $700 million that was to be authorized by the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services might get lost if the oversight board does not amend and obligate the funds, leaving 200,000 low-income citizens without access to the government healthcare plan.

Ramos said the oversight board has yet to obligate the funds for use because it wants to disburse $470 million out of the $700 million to a program that expects to pay Medicare Part B benefits to Medicare Part A recipients. However, the CMCPR president said, allocating the funds to such a program would leave behind programs that cover medication to Hepatitis C patients, pay 70 percent of the fee schedule to Medicare Part B recipients and healthcare providers, and pay insurance fees for citizens who live under the federal poverty level.

“This population is already covered as Medicare covers Part A [benefits] and the government’s Vital Plan covers what would be Medicare Part B. But who is interested in this program that pays for Medicare Part B? Companies that offer Medicare Advantage plans; MMM, Triple S, Humana, and MCS that could take them as Platinum patients, that’s the program that health insurance companies wanted,” Ramos said. “There’s no reason for the board to hold these funds, except that they want to make the Health Insurance Administration implement the program to provide Platinum benefits to those that are already insured, because we know the interests of certain people on the board. And who are the ones that benefit from making their insurers get a Platinum Program? Brokers! And who is a broker on the board? Its chairman, José Carrión III.”

Meanwhile, Ramos called on Carrión III to take action as “the board has had a history of repealing bills to provide access to healthcare services to both providers and patients.”

“If Jose Carrión III wants to do a favor to Puerto Ricans before he leaves his seat on Oct. 31, then let 200,000 patients to whom you’re denying access to quality medical services get into the Health Reform,” Ramos said. “You did not lobby a cent from these funds, I did, and people that are here with me and many others did. You can’t do this.”

Ramos: Another full lockdown would be ‘complicated’

After members of the press asked Ramos to respond to island Health Secretary Lorenzo González Feliciano’s comments from earlier Tuesday about anticipating a possible lockdown due to COVID-19 cases spiking in Puerto Rico, he said enacting a phase similar to the earlier one in March is complicated because “the [financial] aid available in that month is no more.”

“What I do believe is that what happened with the last executive order was no accident, that medical groups met with the Economic Task Force and said case positivity had decreased and that we could open again, and that a private laboratory would hold back results for 10 days and would release them a day after the order came into effect?” Ramos said. “I don’t believe in chances.”

When asked if he was referring to Quest Laboratories holding back data, he said yes. Nonetheless, he said that even though he has no evidence to prove that backlog was intentional, he added that “he couldn’t believe an important medical group alleging that we were at 6 percent of positivity [in COVID-19 cases].”