Filed Under:Your Practice, Regulatory

Bill mandates tourists purchase health insurance

Puerto Rico is spending $500,000 a year on tourists' unpaid medical bills.
Puerto Rico is spending $500,000 a year on tourists' unpaid medical bills.

Puerto Rico lawmakers are considering H.B. 1410, a bill that could create a new health insurance mandate for tourists and for other nonresident visitors.

The bill would require tourists and nonresidents to have health insurance in effect while they are staying on the island. The insurance would have to cover medical bills incurred in Puerto Rico.

Tourists and other affected nonresidents who lacked coverage for expenses incurred in Puerto Rico would have to buy supplemental insurance from private insurers.

In addition to having coverage for care resulting from accidents and medical emergencies, visitors would have to have coverage that would pay for any care they receive in Puerto Rico as a result of conditions that existed before they came to Puerto Rico.

The lead sponsor is Rep. Aponte Dalmau.

The House, the insurance commissioner's office and Puerto Rico's tourism agency — the Tourism Company — are expected to focus on the bill in November.

Topics to be discussed could include statistics on tourists' medical expenses, payments for care and the possible cost of basic coverage for visitors.

Bill backers are expecting Puerto Rico to provide funds that the insurance commissioner and the Tourist Company could use to regulate the tourist insurance provisions.

The tourist insurance would be noncancelable and nonrefundable. Visitors would have to pay for the insurance in full upon arrival at air and cruise ports.

Tourists who arrived with medical insurance that covers expenses in Puerto Rico, such as coverage from Blue Shield or Triple-S Salud, would not have to buy the supplemental tourist insurance.

The cost of insurance would vary from person to person and depend on the tourist's expected length of stay.

Rep. Rafael Hernandez Montanez, a bill sponsor, said the insurance commissioner is looking at the proposal and trying to come up with a price range for tourist insurance that would be comparable to the prices charged for tourist coverage in other Caribbean markets.

“The cost of medical care is cheaper here than in the states, but I believe with the same quality of care," Montanez said. "However, without coverage it’s quite expensive.”

Dalmau predicted in an interview that the bill will help Puerto Rico’s economy.

If tourists who have medical emergencies have health coverage in Puerto Rico, they can stay in the commonwealth and spend more money there, Dalmau said.

"This only helps the Tourism Company, because they can advertise Puerto Rico to tourists as a safe area to vacation," Dalmau said.

The government of Puerto Rico now spends about $500,000 year paying nonresidents' medical bills, Dalmau said.

If more nonresidents have private insurance that pays for care in Puerto Rico, the government can increase spending on care for residents, Dalmau said.

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