The tweets published by President Donald Trump, where he attempts to reduce our fundamental right to health into a mere political maneuver, add insult to the persistent injury the United States has been dealing to the Puerto Rican people by closing our primary paths towards economic recovery and the enjoyment of our human rights.
With his extreme statements, President Trump has used the 3.5 million American citizens living in the island as cannon fodder, as a means to strain his dispute with the Democrats regarding the federal budget. Thus does the leader of the US hinder the efforts being spent right now in Washington to curb the humanitarian crisis that would ensue if the island were not included in the measure to allocate funds to the Medicaid Program.
The allegation that Puerto Rico does not pay federal taxes is far from reality. The people of Puerto Rico contribute, at the same level as their fellows American citizens in the mainland, to the Social Security and Medicare programs. Nevertheless, both Medicare and Medicaid appropriations for Puerto Rico are limited block grants.
We must once more emphasize that the lowest Medicaid rate in the United States is the one assigned to Puerto Rico, which represents a little over $1,500 per beneficiary. This rate in the United States is four times that amount.
The need to mitigate the lack of funds, after the Obamacare allocations to the island run out, has been demonstrated through the movements witnessed in the hallways of the United States Congress.
By dragging the issue of the Medicaid funds to a purely political level, President Trump is adopting a biased position that affects the efforts being made in the US capital to defend the health and even the lives of our people. These efforts are shared among many political, private, and community sectors of our island, as well as by members of Congress and officials from the US Health Department.
Puerto Rico is aware of the importance of applying austerity measures to our public funds, and to work for a greater efficiency in our healthcare system. However, once the Obamacare funds have been depleted, the island will need to be supported by federal allocations that would allow us to keep our services to patients living under the poverty line at a reasonable level.
Puerto Rico’s public healthcare program covers 1,269,017 people, according to the census of beneficiaries from December of 2016. In other words, Trump’s tweets attack more than one third of the Puerto Rican population, which is at the brink of a humanitarian and social crisis with extremely serious consequences.
A highly worrisome effect is the loss of human and social capital in Puerto Rico, due to the massive exodus of Puerto Ricans to the United States. Mr. President should know that in 2015 alone, approximately 89,000 Puerto Ricans migrated to the United States, according to the Migration Profiles drawn by the Puerto Rico Statistics Institute. The analysis recently made of the population’s movement between Puerto Rico and the United States shows that we have already surpassed the migration wave of the 1950s, negatively affecting our island’s conditions for development.
The threat of a $1.8-billion gap, once the healthcare funds are completely depleted before the end of this year, should not be part of a debate that the President himself has aimed at diminishing, by sending messages that display, at the very least, a lack of knowledge.
The United States has not even made the effort to help identify options to mitigate Puerto Rico's severe crisis. Instead, it has closed the doors to any legal alternatives for Puerto Rico to file for bankruptcy, tying its hands and leaving it not only adrift, but sinking into an abyss to which the President’s tweets are obviously indifferent.
At this critical juncture, we should all join to ask President Trump to wisely use the power bestowed upon him, instead of attacking the men and women who have given everything, even their lives, every time the United States has needed them. From the President, we expect noble and assertive actions to ensure the justice we Puerto Ricans deserve and demand.