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Health secretary optimistic about Puerto Rico’s inclusion in federal health reform

By on March 7, 2017

SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico Health Secretary Rafael Rodríguez said Tuesday he was optimistic about the U.S. Congress’ decision not to include Puerto Rico in two bills that would replace the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, and reform Medicaid, the joint federal and state health care program for people with scarce resources.

“I read the bill yesterday. Now we must seize the opportunity and lobby. Yesterday we were gathered with the resident commissioner [Jenniffer González] and with Rep. [Carlos] Curbelo, who is a congressman for Florida and is on a visit here. We talked about that and he told us that this is standard procedure,” he said in a WKAQ 580 radio interview.

Health Secretary Rafael Rodríguez (Juan J. Rodriguez/CB)

Health Secretary Rafael Rodríguez (Juan J. Rodriguez/CB)

According to Rodríguez, Curbelo, a Republican, explained that now is the time to lobby and amend the bill so the island is included. The Health official described the congressman as an ally for Puerto Rico.

“One of our initiatives is to talk with governors from states with a larger Puerto Rican population so they can, in turn, give instructions or make recommendations to their members of congress and senators to help Puerto Rico when Congress is making those amendments,” he said.

See also: GOP governors outline health care plan, Medicaid changes

The secretary noted this wouldn’t be the first time that Puerto Rico isn’t included in a bill, only to be incorporated after lobbying.

“There were many decisions taken on Puerto Rico that in the end were amended in favor of the island and resulted in benefits. We can see it with Medicare, when we achieved fund parity, which was recent. This is the beginning, we have to focus,” he insisted.

See also: House Speaker demands Medicaid fund parity for Puerto Rico

Rodríguez emphasized that the short-term strategy is for Puerto Rico to be included in the “omnibus” bill to receive equal funding next year. Long-term, the strategy is to lobby with respect to the bills that were made public Monday to make sure the island is treated equally.

“This bill will take months -maybe a year- before it is implemented and turned into law. We have time to fight, lobby and achieve equal treatment for Puerto Rico,” he affirmed.

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