Hurricane Maria left Puerto Rico’s health care system severely degraded. Most hospitals suffered damaged. Doctors closed their offices, and many remain closed permanently as Puerto Rico’s medical professionals continue to relocate to the United States mainland. In the wake of the devastation, one company, InnovaCare Health, a New Jersey health services organization, stepped in to fill the void.
As the provider for one of Puerto Rico’s largest Medicare Advantage plans, Medicare y Mucho Mas (MMM), InnovaCare had a presence on the island, and it quickly set up a clinic in a San Juan shop for recharging electronic devices known as Recargate or Recharge. Puerto Ricans flocked to Recargate’s MMM clinic for medical treatment and counseling. The number of patients treated now exceeds 20,000, with about 130 patients visiting the clinic daily.
Led by President and CEO, Dr. Rick Shinto, InnovaCare’s medical outreach program is focused on the unique healthcare needs of Puerto Ricans. In his words, “If they go home and they can’t get that diet or have no place to stay or have no way to get the medication they were prescribed, everything you’ve done in the clinic has been lost.”
Continued infrastructure instability, poverty, housing shortages and transportation interruptions make treatment and follow-up care problematic. To address these issues, InnovaCare Health now operates more than 30 mobile clinics across the island, providing physical exams, medical diagnoses, and prescription medications filled by an on-site pharmacist. InnovaCare’s mobile clinics have provided needed medical services to over 25,000 patients since their implementation.
Continuing the effort to provide quality healthcare to Puerto Ricans, Penelope Kokkinides, InnovaCare Chief Administration Officer, participated in a panel discussion with President Donald J. Trump and the Administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Seema Verma. With more than 20 years of experience in managed care and government health programs, Kokkinides focused on the need to reverse the cuts to Medicare Advantage funding that have been in place since 2011 and have cost the island’s program over $1 billion annually.
Pointing out that the amount was disproportionate to the cuts made to the funding in the States, she said, “Fixing these cuts is not only the right thing to do, but it is the fiscally responsible thing to do. If the Medicaid system collapses in Puerto Rico, many may be forced to leave the island for the States, where their Medicaid costs could be up to three or four times higher.”
In the aftermath of the meeting, CMS issued its latest notice regarding funding in Puerto Rico. The adjustments are considered to be favorable for Puerto Rico’s health care system and for the island’s Medicare Advantage plans that cover more than 560,000 Puerto Ricans.