• The San Juan Daily Star

NPP lawmaker: House speaker using Medicaid to balance his debt plan bill

By John McPhaul

New Progressive Party (NPP) Rep. José Aponte Hernández censured Speaker of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives Rafael “Tatito” Hernández Montañez on Thursday for trying to balance his bill on the Debt Adjustment Plan with the special allocations for the Medicaid program.

The former House speaker also questioned the lack of results from lobbyists in Washington, D.C. paid by Hernández Montañez who did not contribute to helping Puerto Rico achieve 100% reimbursement in Medicaid expenses.

“The reality is that the bill from the leadership of the Popular Democratic Party in the House is based on balancing the budget, in which they allege they will have a surplus, with the money from federal funds assigned to the Medicaid program,” Aponte Hernández said. “The truth is that this is balancing recurring expenses with special allocations achieved by our resident commissioner, Jenniffer González [Colón]. This is not a responsible administrative practice.”

According to Hernández Montañez’s proposal, the veteran NPP lawmaker said, all of its announced investments -- the University of Puerto Rico and the retirement system -- are conditional on generating a surplus of items of $100 million in each budget, after paying everything, including the debt service, which is for an estimated $1.133 billion. Of that amount, the Financial Oversight and Management Board authorizes the use of only 10 percent; that is, $10 million for every $100 million in excess.

Hernández Montañez has insisted that Medicaid funds are the reason for the surplus, Aponte Hernández said.

“Meanwhile, it is thanks to the efforts of the resident commissioner that during the last three years and as a direct consequence of Hurricane Maria, the federal government paid 100% over $3 billion annually, in Medicaid reimbursement,” he said. “That ended this federal fiscal year -- October 1 to September 30. President Joe Biden had promised to continue at that 100% level, but he did not. Where is President Biden’s compliance with Puerto Rico as he claimed to have for having endorsed him in the presidential campaign?”

After major negotiations between the resident commissioner and the Republican and Democratic leadership, 76%, or about $2.5 billion, was saved, Aponte Hernández said.

“But you cannot make plans with that money to be used as a recurring expense,” he added.

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