(Tuesday, October 6, 2020 – Washington, DC) – Yesterday, Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced met with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Region 2 Director, Anthony C. Ferreri, DBA, Regional Administrators, and representatives from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in the Regionl 2 New York City office to discuss Puerto Rico’s healthcare system and the COVID-19 pandemic. During these meetings, the Governor was joined by the Executive Director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA), Jennifer M. Storipan, Esq., and the Secretary for the Health Department, Lorenzo González. The Governor discussed the island’s Medicaid program, the island’s response during COVID-19, and additional ways to strengthen to Puerto Rico’s health care system.
For the past two years, the Government of Puerto Rico, with assistance from PRFAA, has focused and directed their efforts to provide the people of Puerto Rico a fair and just healthcare system with an increase in the allocation of federal funds assigned to the island’s Medicaid Program. Nonetheless, after receiving a historical amount of up to $5.9 billion for the island’s Medicaid program for fiscal years 2020 and 2021, a portion of the funds appropriated for fiscal year 2020 are currently at risk because of the many circumstances that have affected Puerto Rico, delaying the process of utilizing these funds. From the island’s receiving the funds three months into the start of the federal fiscal year, to the Federal Oversight and Management Board (FOMB)’s denial of increasing the Puerto Rico poverty level to expand the base of coverage to the current struggles we face from COVID-19. Thus, the Governor held this meeting to discuss ways to work with the federal government to maximize the island’s usage of these funds.
“I want to assure the people of Puerto Rico that I will do all that is in my power to guarantee them the health care system they deserve. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges the island is confronting, we must fight even harder to have access to these funds that will keep our people and their loved ones safe. We have advised Congress on the many challenges affecting our island particularly the usage of these federal funds assigned; however, I am confident that the outcome of the meetings we are conducting will be of benefit to our island, and we can revisit those conversations.” said Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced.
“Under my tenure, PRFAA has worked tirelessly with the Governor to increase the federal funding for Puerto Rico’s Medicaid Program culminating with the increased funding and FMAP received at the end of last year. While we have had some setbacks in utilizing the money, we continue to direct our efforts to maximize federal funds received and provide a health care system that is fair and efficient for those who need it the most.” said Jennifer M. Storipan, Esq.
Additionally, Vázquez Garced met today with the Administrator of Region 2 of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Tom Von Essen, who indicated that, in addition to the historical assignment of close of $13 billion for the electric power system and for the education system, more jobs and aid are being discussed for Puerto Rico.
“We appreciate the opportunity to meet with Tom Von Essen at the FEMA office to ensure the continuity of work between the Government of Puerto Rico and the federal government, especially now that we have just been awarded the historic amount for our electric power and education system. We will continue working together on the reconstruction of Puerto Rico,” said the Governor.