Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Senate passes bill to cut vehicle sales tax by half

By on June 4, 2020

The Puerto Rico Capitol (Stephanie Klepacki on Unsplash)

Confirms Financial Institutions’ commissioner, votes on addressing ‘surprise medical bills’

SAN JUAN — The Puerto Rico Senate passed a bill authored by its president, Thomas Rivera Schatz, and Sen. Héctor Martínez Maldonado to reduce the tax on “imported, new and used cars, commercial motor vehicles and trucks brought from abroad or made on the island” by 50 percent for 120 days.

Joint Resolution Senate 534, passed by voice vote, says the reduction in taxes must be fully reflected in the sale price.

The provisions of the resolution are applicable to the inventory of vehicles on the island when the emergency COVID-19 emergency was declared, as well as units imported and sold during the temporary tax-reduction period.

“If the taxes have already been paid before the sale, the commercial sellers duly registered for such purposes, may claim a credit on the amount paid,” reads the chamber’s news release, which adds that “if a registered commercial seller generates a purchase order during the term of the Joint Resolution, the provision will be applied to it even if the delivery of the automobile, commercial motor vehicle or truck is made once said period has ended.”

OCIF Commissioner Confirmed

After holding a public hearing in which he outlined his proposals for the Office of the Commissioner of Financial Institutions (OCIF), the Senate confirmed Víctor M. Rodríguez Bonilla as commissioner of said institution.

The appointment was endorsed by Homeland Security official José Félix Santiago, according to the Senate.

“At the public hearing, Rodríguez explained that he intends to establish a formal agreement with the FBI, Homeland Security, the Federal State Department, the Fiscal Oversight Board (JSF) and the New York Federal Reserve to work together and create a Task Force for the development of the financial industry,” the chamber’s release reads.

He also proposed that banks increase their participation in social welfare projects and financial transactions that help the development of government infrastructure and the development of housing, “and attract immediate injection of funds to increase the OCIF budget, which is currently between $30 million and $40 million, but a large part goes to the General Fund,” the Senate explained.

The statement added that Rodríguez Bonilla argued for establishing an “International Financial / Banking Hub”; formally developing an OCIF School of Examiners that consists of alliances with public and private universities and the participation of federal regulators, and implement a program of seminars and professional training for all the financial entities of the island, hand in hand with U.S. regulatory agencies.

‘Surprise medical bills’

Saying that the biggest problem people face when they receive health services is that they frequently receive “surprise bills,” with charges for procedures in emergency rooms or health providers that “the consumer had no option to select,” lawmakers passed Senate Bill 1528, authored by the Senate’s president, which establishes the “Patient Protection Against Surprise Medical Bills Act.”

The Senate release explained that the measure, which adds a chapter to the “Puerto Rico Health Insurance Code” law, says the so-called surprise bills can arise, “for example, in an emergency, a patient may end up in a hospital that is not in their insurer’s network. Even for an in-network hospital scheduled surgery, not all doctors (surgeons, anesthesiologists, for example) may be on the patient’s plan.

“The legislative piece continues explaining that when health care providers are out of the plan’s network, charges for services may only be partially covered or not covered at all, depending on the type of insurance and the design of benefits. In some cases, private services (for example, certain laboratory tests) or products (for example, certain prescription drugs) may also not be covered by a health plan.”

Rivera Schatz says in the measure that “consumers and insurers continue to report exorbitant charges by certain professionals and health facilities for services outside the network, including in the balance billing. In addition, in certain cases they are referred to collection, which results in the increase in the costs of health services and insurance and in more sacrifices for the consumers of medical care.”

The bill decrees that as “public policy of this government, the pertinent mechanisms be established to reform the health care delivery system in Puerto Rico, with the purpose of improving consumer protection, avoiding surprise bills, solving certain healthcare billing disputes, address rising costs, and measure the achievement of these goals,” as put by the chamber’s statement.

The measure, like the others in this statement, was passed by voice vote, thus the electronic voting is pending.