Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Committee Approves Medicaid Grants for Puerto Rico

By on October 5, 2017

 

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez announced that after a debate of nearly eight hours, the Energy and Commerce Committee of the federal House of Representatives approved a $1 billion allocation for Medicaid spending, with 28 votes in favor and 23 votes against.

In response to the steps taken by the resident commissioner to prevent the discontinuation of the medical care plan of hundreds of thousands of citizens, Committee Chair Greg Walden introduced legislation that includes a contribution from the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) of $1 billion to prevent the so-called “abyss” in Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program until 2019.

SCHIP is a program administered by the Federal Department of Health that provides health insurance for families and children in the states. The current emergency situation in Puerto Rico has created a greater awareness of the healthcare needs the island faces.

“Given the condition of the economy and the health system in Puerto Rico following the catastrophe of Hurricane Maria, it became even more urgent to take measures to avoid hundreds of thousands of families losing access to medical and hospital services,” said the resident commissioner.

“Almost half of the citizens on the island are covered by the public health plan, which depends on federal funds, but it is not recouped on an equal basis with other states. The Affordable Care Act only provided funding until 2018 without outlining how to continue to cover over 640,000 beneficiaries. Since my first day in Washington, replenishing that loss of funds has been one of my priorities,” added Gonzalez.

The Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee opened the hearing stating that both he and the members of the Committee have the commissioner and the people of Puerto Rio in their prayers. The commissioner’s petition for Medicaid funds for Puerto Rico, which had already been discussed in previous meetings, was included in the hearing.

As part of these efforts, González Colón had already announced an agreement on May 1 to provide $295.9 million for the My Health program with the support of Federal House Speaker Paul Ryan for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2017.

The resident commissioner continued to work with congressional leaders in order to obtain an additional allocation, adding $1 billion to the health program in Puerto Rico through 2019.

The $1 billion, as announced by the Committee, will be divided into $880 million allocated directly and available until 2019, and an additional $120 million to be released once the fiscal control board certifies that the government of Puerto Rico has complied with certain efficiency and fraud control measures described in the law.

“Together with the Private Sector Coalition, the Secretary of Health of Puerto Rico, and other sectors, we have maintained a  united front with which today we harvest a result much higher than the original expectation,” continued the resident commissioner.

“I appreciate this support and, specially, the willingness of my colleagues, the Committee Chair Greg Walden and the minority spokesperson therein, Frank Pallone, to listen and take action.”

González Colón added that the effort continues for final approval in the House and Senate as soon as possible.

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