Stigma, plus uneven benefits put off municipalities
Fewer than 5 percent of government employees have signed on to the much touted Mi Salud (My Health) government-run health care plan, nor does it have many takers among Fortuño administration officials.
Even New Progressive Party members have scoffed at the program in favor of more established commercial plans.
Only 10,500 public employees out of 250,000 have signed up for Mi Salud of which around 10,000 were “forced” into the plan because of income level.
But the program is the only choice for almost 1.3 million residents of the island who were users of the "La Reforma," the health reform program introduced by former Gov. Pedro Rosselló in the 1990s.
According to Popular Democratic Party Sen. José L. Dalmau, the fact that most of the ruling party members, who created the program in the first place, do not have Mi Salud as their primary health care plan is a testimony to the program’s failures.
“The governor does not have it, nor does most of his Cabinet and most of the NPP-controlled municipalities. That’s shows that the plan is a complete failure,” Dalmau said.
For example, the administration of the island’s largest municipality, San Juan, recommended the Triple S health care plan to their 6,000 employees instead of Mi Salud.
Not even the House Health Committee Chairman, NPP Rep. Jose ‘Pichy’ Torres Zamora uses Mi Salud, even though it was he who drafted legislation to enable the plan to be used by small- and medium-sized business and government agencies, including municipalities.
Despite the fact that he does not used Mi Salud, Torres defended the plan arguing that with incorporation in the health industry, the commercial plans were forced to lower premium and raise benefits.
“With the offering of Mi Salud, most other plans were forced to re-evaluate their offerings to the public sector and in the end, that resulted in extra benefits for the public employees,” Torres said.
NPP senators, including their leader Thomas Rivera Schatz, have selected a different health platform to cater to not only their needs but that of the Upper Chamber’s employees.
During his State of the Senate speech in January, Rivera Schatz touted the new health plan, Triple S, selected by the Senate, as providing the “most comprehensive coverage ever for Senate employees.”
At the time of the speech, Mi Salud was four months old.
The only high ranking NPP official to have the plan is Health Secretary Lorenzo González, who has the distinction of being the first subscriber of Mi Salud.
“The program is that bad that most NPP officials prefer to pay more but with guaranteed benefits, something this program does not have,” Dalmau said.
The PDP lawmaker also critized the use of more than $3 million in a media campaign aimed at public employees as another waste of precious resources.
A high ranking industry insider who wished to remain anonymous said the Mi Salud's biggest problem is image.
“The people still think that Mi Salud is the same as the Reforma and they are worried about what that implies,” the executive said.
According to the official, the two other biggest issues people associate with the new government-run plan are the lack of concrete information relating to the premium structure and the implementation of the close-medical network.
The same official expressed that except in the municipality of Yauco, acceptance for Mi Salud has been slow.
“We have received a cold shoulder from the municipal employees. They don’t look favorably on the new health plan and its coverage,” he said.
“When it comes down to basic arithmetic, the people are finding that a private plan is better than Mi Salud, in term of payments,” the official added.