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Puerto Rico Health agencies break down their respective budgets

By on June 14, 2017

SAN JUAN – The five agencies that make up Puerto Rico’s Health Department approved Tuesday their respective recommended budgets and, although they will suffer cuts when comparing with their current allocations, they all assured they can operate without problems and would keep their temporary employees.

Health Secretary Rafael Rodríguez said that for the next fiscal year he has a recommended consolidated budget of $848.3 million, of which $178.6 million come from the General Fund, $399.5 million from federal funds, $141.5 million from special allocations, $12.9 million from special state funds, and $115.6 million from its own revenues.

“We have a $25 million cut, but I want to clarify that, in the case of Health, temporary employees can’t be dismissed because they are a direct service to patients. [The cut] isn’t as big an impact as it seems,” Rodríguez Mercado said.

Five agencies tied to the Puerto Rico Health Department reported their budgets during a hearing in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, June 13, 2017. (Limarys Suárez/CB)

Susan Roig, head of the Mental Health & Antiaddiction Services Administration (ASSMCA by its Spanish initials), justified that her agency’s recommended budget was 21% higher. The agency’s budget is of $148.6 million, of which $67.7 million are from the General Fund, $36.9 million from federal funds, $6.9 million from its own revenue, and $37 million from special allocations.

“The budget increase is $30 million,” Roig said.

Meanwhile, Ángela Ávila, executive director of the Health Insurance Administration (ASES by its Spanish acronym), noted that the agency’s budget for the next fiscal year amounts to roughly $2.8 billion, which includes federal funds for those covered by Medicaid and Medicare Platinum.

Ávila said that ASES has a budget cut of $100 million.

During his statement, House Treasury & Budget Committee Chairman Antonio Soto expressed dismay with the delay of payments of the medical plans to the government.

“The medical plans have to be up-to-date with Health. This is over. If they want to be a provider, they must be up-to-date. [Whichever] insurer is strangling the medical class, lowering their rates, we cannot qualify it for the Health Plan,” he said.

The budget of the Medical Services Administration (ASEM by its Spanish acronym) and Centro Médico totals $233.5 million for next fiscal year. Out of that total, $34.2 million come from the General Fund, $30 million from special allocations and $166.8 million from their own revenue.

ASEM Director Jorge E. Matta explained that there is a $21.5 million debt due to services offered in Centro Médico to medically indigent patients.

Insurers owe ASEM $18.9 million, the Pediatric Hospital $29 million and the University Hospital $14 million.

“Insurers hire whoever they want. They limit the number of providers. We are putting a stop to that. There is no reason to give them so many benefits,” Health Committee Chairman Juan Oscar Morales said.

For his part, Jorge M. De Jesús Rosa, executive director of the Puerto Rico Cardiovascular Center, said the entity’s budget for the next fiscal year adds up to $115.1 million, all of which is from its own revenue.

“We have a $64 million debt, mainly with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority and the Aqueduct & Sewer Authority,” he acknowledged.

Popular Democratic Party (PDP) House Minority Leader Rafael “Tatito” Hernández said during his turn that even though the Cardiovascular Center has a budget based entirely on its own revenue, the executive branch established a reserve in compliance with the fiscal plan.

When questioned by PDP Rep. Jesús Manuel Ortiz, Health Undersecretary Concepción Quiñones said that the Pediatric Hospital doesn’t have certain medicines available “because the provider doesn’t supply them if they aren’t paid in advance.”

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