• The San Juan Daily Star

Hospital workers to receive Premium Pay pandemic incentive

Qualifying hospital employees in Puerto Rico may be receiving their pandemic Premium Pay incentives as soon as next week.

By John McPhaul

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia said Wednesday that qualifying hospital employees will receive their pandemic Premium Pay soon.

“Yes, but more and more, as the information is submitted, it is being disbursed,” the governor said in response to questions from the press. “On many occasions, and [Hospitals Association President Jaime] Plá himself said it, there are some five hospitals that are owned by outsiders. It could be that people are not eligible.”

Plá said meanwhile that “I hope that next week they will receive the premium pay incentives that have been somewhat delayed in hospitals because it was a process between AAFAF [the Puerto Rico Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority] and the Treasury, and now they have most of the hospitals accounted for in order to make the payment.”

The governor, in his message as keynote speaker at the Puerto Rico Hospitals Association Annual Convention, praised the work of hospitals, health providers and other health professionals in the efforts to combat COVID-19, despite the challenges they continue to face and as they continue to confront the inequity in access to federal funds for the health of Puerto Ricans.

The governor underscored the importance of working together to achieve justice in access to quality medical services for the whole of society, particularly for vulnerable communities.

“The problems and consequences of unequal treatment affect us all,” he said. “This being the case, it is up to all of us to unite to identify and advocate for solutions that will better serve the 3.2 million American citizens who live on the island. For this reason, and as part of the efforts we already have underway, I appointed a multisectoral group that includes representatives from the public and private sectors, who will continue to advocate before Congress and the White House for the equal treatment we deserve in both the Medicaid and Medicare programs.”

Pierluisi noted in his message that the government continues to carry out efforts in Congress and the White House to obtain a permanent solution to the temporary financing problems of Medicaid. He specified the need to have a Federal Medical Assistance Percentage, or FMAP, based on the per capita income of Puerto Rico in relation to the rest of the nation, in addition to eliminating the cap on federal funds dedicated to the program.

“That is why my administration has been, since its inception, urging Congress and the Biden-Harris Administration to end the unequal treatment of U.S. citizens residing in Puerto Rico,” he said. “Our island, our economic development in general and, in particular, the health sector, cannot grow or operate under the shadow of uncertainty.”

Pierluisi also recognized that equal treatment compared to the states will require an expansion of Medicaid services on the island. Therefore, he said, he has already requested a plan for the implementation of additional programs, understanding that “American citizens in Puerto Rico must have the same basic health care services enjoyed anywhere else in the United States.”

In addition to urging hospitals and health providers to support the fight for equity in medical services to the population of Puerto Rico, the governor thanked each of them for their work as key players in the efforts to fight COVID-19.

Pierluisi also reiterated in his message how successful Puerto Rico has been in its vaccination efforts. As of Thursday, 72 percent of the entire population of the island was already vaccinated. Eighty percent of the working population had gotten both doses, while 90 percent had received at least one dose of the vaccine.

He also announced that the government is ready for when it can begin the vaccination of children from five to 11 years of age, since “we recognize that vaccination is the solution for saving lives.”

The governor also highlighted part of his administration’s management to handle the pandemic: tests throughout the island, increased educational campaigns, prudent changes in executive order restrictions, streamlining of vaccination processes, incentives for affected sectors of the local economy and the accessibility of federal aid in a responsive way for all those who need it, including hospitals.

He urged hospitals and diagnostic and treatment centers to make arrangements for the payment of additional compensation -- Premium Pay -- if they have not already done so, so that they can benefit from the incentive.

The additional compensation payment comes from a $200 million fund allocated by the government.

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