Puerto Rico Senate President denounces lobbying efforts of two insurers
SAN JUAN – Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz denounced that health insurers Triple S and MCS are resorting to influence to derail Senate Bill 27 from being signed by Gov. Ricardo Rosselló. The measure gives patients better tools when it comes to filing complaints against health plans.
“Triple S and MCS are the big opponents of Senate Bill 27 and are hiring and looking for influential people in government to persuade so the bill isn’t signed,” Rivera Schatz said in an interview with Caribbean Business.
Despite intense lobbying to prevent its enactment, the Senate leader emphasized that the measure, which he authored, was approved by both legislative chambers unanimously, and is the reason why he is confident that at the end of the day Rosselló will side with patients.
“We’ll soon know whether [the governor] signs it…but it is a bill that was approved unanimously in the House and Senate and I trust in the good judgment of the governor,” he said.
Rivera Schatz said he met with the governor, discussed S.B. 27 and did not believe there were issues with the bill in La Fortaleza.
“I know that Triple-S and MCS people are lobbying with the intention of keeping the current system to continue pocketing the money generated by this health reform framework. Each cardholder pays $4.32, and that money, which is for specific purposes, is not used and ends up as profit,” Rivera Schatz said.
When during an exclusive interview Wednesday Caribbean Business asked Rivera Schatz if he foresaw the governor enacting the legislation, he replied: “I haven’t seen deadlock…. The governor, as he does with all others [measures], evaluates and receives input, for example, from the president of the Physicians Association; [he] met with Dr. Carlos Mellado, who was the patient’s advocate, and has met with different people… I can tell you that I am aware that Triple-S and MCS are interested in maintaining the current system to continue to profit; from my point of view, in an unfair way,” he replied.
At the end of the day, do you expect the governor to sign Senate Bill 27, CB again asked.
“At the end of the day, it’s about either defending patients or defending insurance companies. Defend citizens or defend insurers. I’m sure the governor will defend the citizens,” Rivera Schatz said.
After being asked about the challenges of legislating measures for the benefit of the most disadvantaged and going against so-called big interests, the Senate president pointed out that only the insurers have never complained about the difficulties experienced in Puerto Rico with the health system.
“It’s very simple, and this is something that anyone who reads your report will have the answer. Throughout this economic crisis, we hear patients making statements about the gaps that exist, and we listen to providers—I’m talking about doctors, laboratories, pharmacies—about the problems they have, and those who don’t complain are the insurers,” he said.
During public hearings on S.B. 27, Health Secretary Rafael Rodríguez Mercado and Health Insurance Administrator Ángela Ávila Marrero opposed the measure after alleging it has an economic impact, but neither of them told the Legislature the amount in dollars and cents.
The governor said Wednesday that if the measure is not in line with the fiscal plan certified by the financial management board, he would not be abe to enact it.
“We are not going to issue a statement for the moment,” said Marien Amezaga, director of communications for MCS, regarding the Senate president’s remarks.
Triple-S, meanwhile, said it abides by the highest ethical standards, always operates lawfully and “vehemently rejects any claim to the contrary.”
With respect to Senate Bill 27, the company added in its written statement that it supports what was said in public hearings by the government agencies concerned and the insurance industry, through its official representatives, who opposed the bill for its “adverse impact” on Puerto Rico’s budget and the certified fiscal plan.