July 24, 2021

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Governor calls for amendments to health care reform and constitutional referendum on pensions

Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced announced today that she called for the legislative assembly tomorrow at 1:00 in the afternoon to meet at her Fifth Special Session in order to attend dozens of measures covering health, retirement, housing, municipalities and non-profit organizations and in which a referendum is proposed on the day of the general election to consult the people if they wish to amend the Constitution of Puerto Rico to recognize as a constitutional right that every public servant and retired from the government have access to a pension.

The extraordinary session announced today – just under a month after the primarist elections – must be completed in a maximum period of 20 days.

Given the ambitious agenda for the coming weeks, the governor was asked why she did not present the projects previously and decided to do so at a date so close to primary schools in which she aspires as a pre-candidate to govern by the New Progressive Party (PNP). She was also asked if the announcement was a “campaign promise.”

Accompanied by legislative leaders, Thomas Rivera Schatz and Carlos Johnny Méndez, as well as other senators and representatives, the first executive rejected the premise and said that some of the proposals respond to promises he made during his message on the country's situation and budget, such as amending the Insurance Code, to promote the elimination of requirements that insurers place during the provision of services and accelerate payment. of claims.

However, the surprising element is that among the issues to be addressed in the extraordinary session will be included is a project of administration to elevate the removal of public servants to constitutional rank.

“Our public servants deserve justice. For years they worked hard and their retirement was discounted, so that they are now affected. It is not fair, and therefore, it deserves that the payment of its retirement be raised to constitutional rank ”, argued Vázquez Garced when indicating that the Retirement System of Teachers and those of the Judiciary will be in the first order of hierarchy along with the payment of interest and the amortization of public debt.

“This would mean a profound change in the current order since, at present, the payment of pensions is lagging and only proceeds after the interest is paid. and amortization of the debt, the commitments contracted by virtue of legal contracts in force, judgments of the courts in cases of forced expropriation, among other obligations, "explained the governor during a press conference from the Convention Center, in Miramar. [19659004] Given the precarious situation facing the State Election Commission (CEE) the governor was asked if funds had been identified to attend the referendum.

“Trab we will reduce the costs that are … if the funds have to be identified, it will be done ”, replied without specifying how much the cost of the referendum will rise, which, he said, can be held without the endorsement of the Fiscal Oversight Board (JSF

Regarding the issue of health and insurers, he announced that two administrative measures will be submitted to amend the Puerto Rico Pharmacy Law and the Insurance Code in order to “streamline the process for the award and payment of claims submitted by health service providers to insurers. ”

He explained that measure 128 promotes shortening the period of time that insurers have to respond to claims of denial covered by service or treatment of health from 72 to 48 hours and in the case of controlled medications reduce it from 36 to 24 hours.

The legislation will also try to ensure that doctors have discretion when prescribing a drug or providing a treatment. The health service or service is altered by the clinical review criteria used by the health insurance organization or insurer.

On the other hand, a Senate bill will also be evaluated to establish the "Law on patient protection against bills medical surprises ”. This law, he said, will seek consumer protections and "cost control outside the network of providers" to avoid that patients undergoing health services are subsequently surprised by bills and costs of procedures that insurers allege were not covered, this without first consulting the person.

Likewise, he mentioned that there will be a project to grant funds to non-profit organizations, as well as a measure that would authorize the Secretary of the Treasury to provide Emergency Assistance to grant loans of up to $ 185 million to CRIM to address the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the other hand, Vázquez Garced took the opportunity to say that he signed the project that will allow people affected by earthquakes in the municipalities of Ponce , Guánica, Yauco, Guayanilla and Peñuelas have the opportunity of safe housing through repossessed houses. He explained that the measure allows the Housing Financing Authority (AFV) to transfer the ownership of repossessed homes to the municipalities and these in turn will be able to do so with the victims who lost their homes. The process is done by donation or by giving usufruct the homes. He mentioned that there are more than 250 properties around the island available to those in need. Instead, it was not clear how families would be selected and what are the qualification requirements for this benefit.

These are the measures that will be addressed in the extraordinary session that will begin tomorrow. The governor made the reservation that other projects that could be added to the legislative agenda will be evaluated:

  • Administration Measure 128- Seeks to shorten the period of time that the insurer has to answer the claim for denial of coverage by health service or treatment from 72 to 48 hours and in the case of controlled medications, from 36 to 24 hours.
  • Administration Measure 129- Seeks to amend Law 5-2014 known as “Law to establish policy public ELA related to the interpretation of the provisions of the Health Insurance Code and issue prohibitions "to outline clearer guidelines so that the regulations that are promulgated on the utilization review processes for medical-hospital services are more precise and efficient.
  • Senate Bill 1528- Establishes the "Law on patient protection against surprise medical bills" and amends C Puerto Rico Health Insurance Code for unexpected bills for health plans, consumer protections, transparency, cost control and liability, outside the provider network.
  • Administration Project to hold a referendum on the day of the general elections (November 3), through which the people are asked if they want the Constitution of Puerto Rico to be amended to: recognize the constitutional right of all public servants and of all retired from the government to have access to a pension, and seeks to place the payment of the pensions of all retirees -including those of the Teacher System and those of the Judiciary- in the first order of hierarchy along with the payment of interest and amortization of the public debt. In fact, for the consultation to be on Election Day, the measure must be approved with three-quarters of the votes in both houses.
  • Joint House Resolution 766 to allocate $ 536 million to the Reserve Emergency Service for Title 3.
  • Joint House Resolution 737 to allocate $ 20 million in legislative donations to allocate to non-profit organizations.
  • Joint Senate Resolution 547 to authorize the Secretary The Treasury will provide Emergency Assistance to grant a loan of up to $ 185 million to CRIM to address the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Senate Bill 1447, administration measure to establish the Liability Law in Debt Issuance, in order to create a uniform, transparent and responsible debt management policy that will govern the issuance of any future debt that is authorized by the government so that the debt does not come out of operational expenses, but of infrastructure.
  • House Bill 306 to prohibit workplace harassment.
  • House Bill 2143 and 2144, that proposes an increase of salary for nurses working in both the public and private systems as of 2022.
  • House Bill 2075, that intends that the Bureau of Forensic Sciences is not part of the Department of Public Security so that may be a separate and independent agency, and may generate its own funds.
  • Senate bills, 1648 and 1649 that were requested by the Department of the Treasury, which are to modernize Mandatory Insurance and allow the use of electronic documents in the government billing.
  • Draft Chamber 2546 so that the Administration of Health Services and Against Addiction (Assmca) can monitor cases of overdose.
  • Pro Senate Bill 1223, that amends the Law to Create the Board of Examiners of Chiropractors in order to allow the practice of chiropractic students on the island, among other measures.

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