Washington – Resident Commissioner in Washington Jenniffer González asked the congressional leadership to include the current level of funding for Puerto Rico through the Medicaid program in the continuing resolution to keep the government funded past September 30.
The idea is that the federal government continues contributing 100 percent of Medicaid services costs in Puerto Rico, which represents about $ 230 million per month until Congress reaches final agreement on the 2020 budget and appropriations for the federal health program mainly aimed at the poor.
"This is an urgent matter that cannot wait," said González on Friday, in her letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
The Congressional leadership and the White House are negotiating a short-term spending measure, known as a continuing resolution, which is expected to last until November 21, hoping to reach an agreement before Thanksgiving Break and avert another government shutdown. Current government funding lasts through September 30.
However, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Maryland) had already warned – one day before Gonzalez's letter to the Congressional leadership –, that the idea is that the resolution does not include independent issues.
Without particular issues in the measure, it is unlikely that a temporary Medicaid program funding for Puerto Rico could find a way. But Gonzalez's request reflects the delay in Medicaid funds after recent corruption charges against former Puerto Rican government officials and contractors.
On Thursday, Governor Wanda Vázquez and other territories leaders also wrote to the congressional leadership in a joint effort to demand “equal treatment” under Medicaid.
In her letter to the Congressional leadership, González recalled that without new Medicaid funds, as of January 2020, Puerto Rico will basically depend on the nearly $ 380 million a year it receives through permanent Medicaid funding.
Since early 2018, as an emergency initiative related to the catastrophe triggered by Hurricane María, Puerto Rico counts on a $ 4.8 billion allocation, aimed at covering 100 percent of the costs of Medicaid services. Those funds, which have represented about $ 230 million a month, will expire o won´t be available as of September 30.
Puerto Rico would then depend on reserve funds from the Obamacare law before going back to the $ 380 million annual allocation, which requires the Puerto Rican government to contribute 45 percent of Medicaid services costs.
In July, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce approved a $ 12,8 billion Medicaid allocation over the next four federal fiscal years, after imposing new restrictions and controls on it, amid corruption cases involving the government’s health plan and former Health Insurance Administration (PRHIA) director Ángela Ávila.
That measure has not moved forward at a time when there are negotiations with the Senate, where the Republican majority wants to reduce the federal contribution percentage for Medicaid services – FMAP –, and impose new controls on the island, according to recent statements by Commissioner González and Puerto Rican Democratic Representative Darren Soto (Florida).
Meanwhile, the island's Democratic leadership wrote to House majority leaders, headed by Pelosi, also calling for swift action on the issue.
“As you prepare to move forward with our Democratic agenda for the rest of the year, we urge you to take all necessary steps to ensure that the people of Puerto Rico and other territories are protected throughout this legislative process. We fear that if Medicaid fiscal cliff is not addressed at this point, it could be the victim of a complicated and extensive congressional agenda at the end of the year,” said Charlie Rodríguez, Chair of the island’s Democratic Party, Vice President Johanne Vélez, permanent delegate Luis Dávila Pernas, and permanent delegate María “Mayita” Meléndez, mayor of Ponce.