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SAN JUAN -- Barack Obama's healthcare reform will benefit Puerto Rico with $6.6 billion more than the $4.8 expected for Medicaid between 2011 and 2019. After the healthcare bill passed on March 21, Puerto Rico began to look at the next decade which will be crucial for the Island to step up to the demands for accessing healthcare funds. Among the priorities will be creating by 2014 a new market for health insurance, also known as the Centers for Health Insurance Exchange.

"The worst dilemma we were facing was that Puerto Rico would not receive a dime, but now with the $6 million for Medicaid and the $925 million that we will receive after 2014 for the local medical centers, we have the possibility of letting more people benefit from the reform and giving them additional benefits", said Lorenzo Gonzalez, Secretary of Health.

According to Gonzalez, this legislation is estimated to help 180,000 of the 400,000 Puerto Ricans without health insurance in the territory. Meanwhile, the Puerto Rican Senate is working on a proposal to create an insurance company that can distribute the funds.


In the quest of finding a viable option for administering the new law's funds, last week the Senate celebrated a public hearing to amend the ASES Law, which will convert this agency into the complete administrator of funds Puerto Rico receives in the future.

But it's important to note that this branch closed in 2009 fiscal year with a deficit of $82 million and by 2010, it's expected to reach $177 million in debt, said Domingo Nevarez, ASES director.

Although Nevarez believes the agency's transformation into a health insurance company will take from 12 to 18 months, Alicia Feliberti, president of the Medic's Collegiate, told the audience that ASES infrastructure is not prepared for the task.
Feliberti considers that a medical cooperative, SaludCoop, should administer the federal funds while ASES becomes able to handle the system. Also, she recommends that the ASES' Board of Directors should include a Collegiate's representative.

Next week, Governor Luis Fortuño is expected to present the Government's Health Plan for his four-year period in office. While he praised Commisionate Pedro Pierluisi's in the Senate in bringing more funds to the Island, he emphasizes that his goal is to "strengthen the Government's Health Program and create programs to make the health services more accessible to the middle class at reasonable prices".

Learn more about Natalia

Natalia A. Bonilla Berrios is a junior at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) majoring in Journalism and minoring in Political Science, International Relations. Natalia has a 3.90 GPA.

She was the former president of the UPR student chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, a member of the National Society of Collegiates and Scholars and was selected for the 'Who's Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges' program, during her freshman year.

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