Puerto Rico faces tougher scrutiny over federal Medicaid funding

By Karen Pierog (Reuters) - U.S.

Reuters July 18, 2019 04:06:11 IST
Puerto Rico faces tougher scrutiny over federal Medicaid funding

Puerto Rico faces tougher scrutiny over federal Medicaid funding

By Karen Pierog

(Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday called for heightened scrutiny of Puerto Rico's Medicaid programme as the bankrupt territory seeks increased federal healthcare funding while it deals with repercussions from a government corruption scandal.

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce agreed to several accountability measures linked to a $12 billion funding boost over four years for the low-income healthcare programme in Puerto Rico. A group of Republican U.S. senators, meanwhile, sought information on whether any safeguards are in place to deter misuse of the island's federal Medicaid dollars.

Last week, Angela Avila-Marrero, former executive director of Puerto Rico's Health Insurance Administration, pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and other charges related to her role in an alleged scheme to steal federal Medicaid dollars through a corrupt bidding process with private contractors. The charges were part of a 32-count indictment brought by U.S. law enforcement officials against six people in a government corruption probe.

The House committee adopted an amendment proposed by U.S. Representative Greg Walden, an Oregon Republican, that added provisions for federal audits and probes of contracts related to Puerto Rico's Medicaid programme, as well as a quarterly reporting requirement on how much of the money was spent.

"The legislation we are moving forward with today ensures that Puerto Rico Medicaid beneficiaries get the care they need while improving transparency, accountability, and integrity of the programme that will help prevent this type of fraudulent activity from happening again,” Walden said in a statement.

U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and other Republican senators requested detailed information on Puerto Rico's Medicaid funding levels and measures related to transparency and accountability from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

"The recent and unfortunate allegations concerning misuse of public funds in Puerto Rico’s health system, along with an ongoing lack of transparency in the government of Puerto Rico, raises important questions as Congress once again faces decisions on federal Medicaid funding for Puerto Rico," the senators said in a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar.

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello, who has resisted calls for his resignation over government corruption and controversial leaked group text messages, said on Tuesday that

he welcomes greater federal oversight as long as it does not slow the flow of federal money to the island.

Protests against the governor have erupted daily in Puerto Rico, which filed a form of bankruptcy in 2017.

(Reporting by Karen Pierog in Chicago; Additional reporting by Luis Valentin Ortiz in San Juan; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters
World

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters
World

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.