Physicians in Puerto Rico are taking a stance against the government and several insurance companies after they were refused payment for treating the poor. Doctors are threatening to discontinue their treatment of more than 1 million patients with Medicaid coverage if they are not compensated appropriately for their work. Governor Luis Fortuno has been attempting to mitigate the frustrations of the island’s physicians, but his efforts have been met with staunch resistance. Resolution of the issue, he says, lies in the hands of insurers.
The government has announced that it will be withholding two months of payments from insurance companies if a solution cannot be reached. According to officials, doctors are owed between $57 million and $87 million for their work this year. The problems first began when the government implemented a new Medicaid program last year, which sought to expand people’s access to medical care.
Delays for payments began in December of last year; only a month after the program was initiated. Doctors have been waiting for their money since that time, yet have continued to treat patients, many of whom are poor or disabled. Now, however, the livelihood of the physicians is at risk. Without payment, doctors have said that they will no longer care for patients.