The U.S. Congress must address Puerto Rico's claim to approve in the short term an important allocation that would ensure the continuity of Medicaid services on the island.
Ensuring adequate health services for low-income populations must be a high priority issue in the social justice mission of any government. It´s been demonstrated this allocation that is pending approval in Washington is essential for that goal in Puerto Rico.
The Puerto Rican scenario, plunged into fiscal insolvency and a slow recovery process after the severe damage caused by the 2017 hurricanes, justifies the approval of legislation to prevent Medicaid funds from running out, as well as measures to provide health services to the island´s most vulnerable sectors.
The lack of adequate health services in Puerto Rico, mainly for indigent adults over the age of 60, as well as for children with health conditions involving recurrent treatments, is a factor driving the exodus to the mainland. It is therefore important to promote the full operation of Medicaid based on fair treatment.
The picture on the island is complex because, without matching federal allocations to the funding Puerto Rico received under the Obamacare law, the Health Insurance Administration estimates that nearly half of the 1.25 million people participating in the government's health plan will be left without medical services.
Puerto Rico’s claim in Washington is shared by other U.S. territories, which have filed a proposal that includes improving hospital reimbursements and funding to provide medication for indigent adults.
The proposal that was introduced last week, involves eliminating a Medicaid contribution cap for the territories and raising the federal contribution to its services. This includes Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands.
Efforts led by Governor Wanda Vázquez in Washington, as well as the work of Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González to defend that contribution, are necessary and deserve full support. In a letter sent to Congress members, Vazquez insisted on Puerto Rico receiving the same funding it had since early 2018. The idea is for the federal government to temporarily continue contributing 100 percent of Medicaid services costs in Puerto Rico, which would represent about $ 230 million monthly until they reach a final agreement on the 2020 budge.
It has been encouraging that congressional leaders like Democrat Nancy Pelosi and Republican Kevin McCarthy met with Puerto Rican delegations last week.
However, it is disturbing that some representatives insist on extreme regulations that can lead to suspending services. This idea doesn’t mean to stop audits or controls on the use of Medicaid funds. This claim is based on equal treatment. The efforts is directed to guarantee social justice for an island in crisis whose population of American citizens aspires to a better quality of life.
Puerto Rico, meanwhile, has to respond with the greatest administrative and financial transparency, and accountability. Therefore, among other measures, there is an urgent need to ensure that health plan contributions reach those who truly need them.
We hope Congress will act responsibly to ensure that Puerto Rico receives $ 12 billion in Medicaid funds during the four-year period set, without conditions that would unreasonably limit those essential resources on the island.