SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Physicians are threatening to stop serving nearly a million Puerto Ricans as a result of a dispute between the island's government and an insurance company over reimbursements for treating poor people.

Gov. Luis Fortuno on Wednesday appealed to the doctors to avoid cutting off patients, saying it would be illegal. In an interview with WAPA, a local TV station, he also said the government would withhold two months of payments to the insurance company unless it settled with doctors, hospitals, laboratories and others.

Just hours after Fortuno spoke, the island's health secretary announced the government paid $57 million of the $87 million it owed Medical Card System Inc. for June. Secretary Lorenzo Gonzalez initially said the remainder would be paid only when MCS settled its bills with medical providers, but he later said it would be paid in upcoming days.

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