Back in 1998, when Penelope Kokkinides entered the healthcare field, the majority of medical records were typically retained as paper files, with the major technological advances being color-coded file folders and microfilm, certainly a cost-heavy business model. But HMO’s and other managed care business options were becoming established, and, moreover, earning her Master of Public Health from Columbia, Penelope saw the advantages of technology for reducing costs and improving care. With those skills, the lifelong New Yorker advanced to the position of Chief Operating Officer of Aveta Inc in nearby Fort Lee, New Jersey, a leading provider of managed healthcare services. By 2006, as Penelope grew in proficiency, developing a specialty in Medicare and Medicaid, she was named Chief Operating Officer at InnovaCare Health Solutions, where today she is Chief Administrative Officer.
Interestingly, InnovaCare has a specialty providing health care services in Puerto Rico, where InnovaCare covers some 560,000 beneficiaries under Medicare Advantage. In March of 2017, Kokkinides received an invitation from recently inaugurated President Donald Trump to attend The Women in Health Care Panel roundtable, a meeting discussing federal health care legislation. President Trump represented the federal government along with Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, CMS. At the meeting, Kokkinides spoke of the yearly cuts to federal funding for Medicare in Puerto Rico, an island with a median household income of only $20,000. Not having the benefits of statehood, Ms. Kokkinides pointed out, Puerto Rico does not have access to a state health insurance marketplace, the Affordable Care Act or certain federal resources it would receive if it were a state. Accordingly, she advocated for an end to the cuts and for increased funding for Medicare Advantage in Puerto Rico, emphasizing that Puerto Rico’s reimbursement rate for Medicare Advantage is well below the national average.
A positive outcome occurred a month later when the Department of Health and Human Services notified Puerto Rico of its actions to stabilize Medicare Advantage payments and increase Part C payments representing the beginning of an effort to strengthen Medicare and Medicaid on the island.
After the September 2017 hurricane, what had been a shortfall in health care funding quickly worsened becoming the Puerto Rico health care crisis. Penelope Kokkinides, with her 20-year background in Social Work and Public Health, continues to work for improving health care delivery and efficiency for InnovaCare’s 560,000 beneficiaries in Puerto Rico.