Jenniffer Gonzalez, resident commissioner in Washington, informed that yesterday she met with the chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee of the Federal Chamber, Greg Walden, and detailed the needs of Puerto Rico regarding health issues.
Even so, Gonzalez acknowledged the difficulty of addressing the most urgent issue for the Island: insufficient funding to subsidize the government's health plan.
The main commitment for González and other sectors of the country that lobby in Washington, is that Congress includes Puerto Rico in the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which technically expires on September 30. In fact, last February, speaker Paul Ryan said that it would be the best mechanism for the Island to have access to federal funds for its health system.
"The president (Ryan) told me at the time that it was the best vehicle. That is why, for us, it is important to insert ourselves in the discussions that are taking place right now regarding the approval of the budget, CHIP and in any of the vehicles facing September. We are not discarding anything. CHIP is the one with higher probabilities," said the commissioner in a telephone interview.
González acknowledged that "there is an atmosphere of instability here (in Congress) about the approval of the federal budget and other measures that expire on September 30, like CHIP; the (federal) health reform and the tax reform."
That´s why, she insisted on the need to present information about the situation of Puerto Rico. In that line, she said the meeting with Walden served to provide information he did not know about the health reform.
"There is a common purpose here. All of the private sector, the social sector ... we have worked this for a long time. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price knows this and has been one of our best allies in this issue," noted Gonzalez, who underlined the work of the Front for Puerto Rico, advocating in Washington for federal funds for health, for the Island to be included in the federal tax reform and for the implementation of the recommendations from the task force on economic growth which was created by federal PROMESA.
Gonzalez said that she tackled these three issues at her meeting with Walden and also did so last Friday with Kevin Brady, chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means.
According to the commissioner, "the two meetings are positive because (lawmakers) are willing to work." But she recognized that, as Puerto Rico does not have a congressional representation with voting power, "it will always be more difficult."
She noted that one of the claims she submitted to Walden was to make the Medicaid allocation for Puerto Rico "long term and not year after year" as it is today.
"Year after year, Puerto drowns itself seeking for Medicaid funds when we should be solving the root of the problem permanently. The root of the problem is that Puerto Rico has an annual cap up to $ 350 million on the funds it receives, something that does not happen to the rest of the states," she indicated.
The government of Puerto Rico is in a race to get funding for the Medicaid program because, if nothing changes, those funds are estimated to be exhausted by April 2018.
Meanwhile, the Republican majority has not been successful in its attempt to repeal and replace the so-called Obamacare and the tax reform has not yet settled.
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