Governor stands by his healthcare proposals
SAN JUAN – Gov. Ricardo Rosselló explained Friday the measures proposed to manage the island’s healthcare system. He also argued the projections used by the Fiscal Oversight and Management Board are bleaker than the real numbers.
More specifically, the governor called the fiscal board’s expectation of a 17.1% contraction of the Puerto Rican economy far-fetched. “Estimating a contraction of 17.1% is to anticipate that Puerto Rico will totally collapse, and we established another paradigm,” the governor said. He went on to argue that the 1.6% contraction his administration projects reflects $1.1 billion in additional revenue, which will make up for not cutting the healthcare and pension systems as much as the board proposed.
As for the plan itself, the goal, according to Rosselló, was to find a system able to give patients more options and coverage as well allow the medical industry to thrive.
A key element for the plan would be a transition to a single region with an opt-in system for the patient. Rosselló expressed confidence in that increasing competition among health insurance companies would result in lower premiums and increased options. In this system, the government would pay the most basic per-member-per-month (PMPM) rate but would allow patients to choose a more comprehensive plan, with the patient paying the difference.
Rosselló concluded that this system would represent a financial injection for the local healthcare industry, without becoming too much of a burden for either the patient or the government.
Studies commissioned by the government conclude such systems could not be achieved with a $1 billion reduction in government subsidies. In a message to members of the Chamber of Commerce and the healthcare industry, Rosselló said the studies showed a bleak scenario for the industry if budget cuts reached the half-billion mark. This was the deciding factor, he said, to not follow the board’s proposal.
However, in a letter sent to the governor, the board questions some of the assumptions in the fiscal plan. Healthcare was one area in which it changed the plan’s parameters. “The Government should achieve at least $100 million in annual expenditure reductions in healthcare in FY18 [fiscal year 2018]; $300 million in FY19; and $750 million by FY21,” reads the board’s letter, which gives the governor until 9 a.m. Saturday to deliver a revised plan.
The fiscal board also does not see eye-to-eye with the governor when it comes to federal action. It expects a reduction of federal funds for Puerto Rico, but the administration is optimistically lobbying for the opposite. Rosselló created a task force comprising private sector groups and members of his administration, including Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González. The purpose of the task force is to fight for parity with stateside Medicaid funding for the island.
While Rosselló explained his plan does not consider any allocation of federal funds, he is confident that Puerto Rico won’t be forgotten as the Republican-controlled Congress puts and end to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.