• The Star Staff

Resident commissioner urges citizens to enroll in gov’t health plan in light of expanded eligibility

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @pete_r_correa

Special to The Star

Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón, along with Puerto Rico Health Insurance Administration (ASES by its Spanish acronym) Executive Director Jorge Galva, urged islanders on Thursday to enroll in the Government Health Plan, also known as the Vital Plan, in response to a temporary relaxation of the poverty limit.

During a press conference held at the HealthProMed Primary Center in Barrio Obrero in Santurce, González Colón said that as a result of the provisional income level increase authorized by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, workers who earn up to $7.25 an hour or $1,202 monthly can request the government plan.

The resident commissioner added that “this now allows a family of four generating $29,000 a year to qualify for the health plan.”

“This means that people in the private sector who generate less money than this can be part of the plan,” she said, pointing out that the service is short-term financial aid for the island’s working class.

While noting that people who become eligible will be insured until Sept. 30, González Colón said she was working to make the extension permanent. She said she has met with members of the Senate Finance Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee to increase allocations to the island’s health program.

“We are requesting that this change in the poverty level for determining beneficiary eligibility in the health plan be made permanent and that 200,000 medically indigent individuals be able to benefit from the Vital Plan on a permanent basis,” the resident commissioner said.

“Since this requires an additional appropriation of funds, many members of Congress are evaluating whether this temporary phase has been effective and if we don’t use the funds, we will not have a solid foundation for making the funds permanent.”

“This is the opportunity for many to catch up on their medical appointments and tests,” she added.

With the extension, a person with an annual income of $14,424, a family of two with an income of $19,248, a family of three with an income of $24,592, a family of four with an income of $29,616, a family of five with an income of $34,680, and a family of six with an income of $39,744 are eligible for the health plan, and the eligibility threshold continues to increase if the number of household members is higher.

“We still have more than 30,000 people left in the private sector who can benefit from this and have not applied for it,” González Colón said in an urgent appeal to individuals who lack medical coverage.

Galva said meanwhile that ASES is running an advertising campaign on different media outlets to persuade Puerto Rico residents to subscribe to the Vital Plan under the slogan “Vital Plan for People Who Work, Like You!”

He also urged islanders to become informed, noting that the Vital Plan may cover minors even if parents are not eligible for the service as the income level is even more flexible under the Children’s Health Insurance Program, commonly known as CHIP.

Citizens may apply for the benefits of the Government Health Plan through the website: www.medicaid.pr.gov.

Citizens who do not have access to the internet or have any difficulty filling out the application can contact the call center at (787) 641-4224 or TTY/TDD (787) 625-6955, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.