Health Dept. ready to expand Medicare, Medicaid services
By John McPhaul
The Puerto Rico Department of Health is ready to serve citizens who apply for the benefits of the Government Plan-Vital Plan, after receiving authorization from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to alter the income scale of participants in order to include more citizens, the island agency announced Tuesday.
Under the new scenario, citizens who previously did not qualify for income could be eligible to receive the benefit temporarily, until Sept. 30, 2021, said Health Secretary Lorenzo González Feliciano, who anticipated that the department will be sending letters to people who applied for the aid and were ineligible due to income, so that they can apply again under the new scale.
“This is excellent news. We are ready to receive the application from those citizens who do not yet have a medical plan and whose income level can now qualify them,” González Feliciano said. “Health is a right that we all have and having a plan for its citizens should be a priority for any government. Now, with these new income scales, many people will be able to go to their doctor, buy their medicines and take care of themselves in a preventive way, as it should be.”
The Health secretary thanked Natalie Jaresko, executive director of the federal Financial Oversight and Management Board, who he said was key to achieving such an important benefit for Puerto Rico.
The director of Medicaid in Puerto Rico, Luz Cruz Romero, added that in addition to the new income scale, the CMS also authorized an increase in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) income level, so now the table is as follows:
“This income is net. Depending on the family composition and socioeconomic situation, you could apply discounts,” Cruz Romero said. “For this reason, we urge citizens -- nuclear family -- who have experienced a reduction in their income, whether due to job loss, reduction of work hours or some other situation, to request the benefits of the Vital Plan, since they could be eligible.”
She also emphasized that a family with children could be eligible even if the parents were not eligible, since under the CHIP program, the level of income to qualify is even higher.
To apply for Vital Plan benefits, citizens must access the website: www.medicaid.pr.gov and fill out the application. Any citizen who does not have access to the internet, or who needs assistance to fill out the application, can contact the center from Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at (787) 641-4224 or TTY (787) 625-6955.
“We want citizens to take advantage of this opportunity. It is important that you know that if there is a need to contact you to clarify any information provided in the application or a need for any additional information, an employee of the Medicaid Program will be calling you at the phone number you provided in the application, and that the employee’s phone number may be indicated as a private number on your phone,” Cruz Romero said. “It is also important that, once the application is submitted online, you must monitor your email, since they could also contact you by this means. You must check the mailbox for ‘spam’ or ‘junk’ as the email could receive it there.”