Sunday, November 17, 2019

Legislation introduced to expand Medicare Part D low-income subsidies to U.S. territories

By on October 16, 2019

The U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (File)

Bipartisan bill would allow residents of Puerto Rico, other U.S. territories to become eligible for the subsidy program beginning in plan year 2021

SAN JUAN — Reps. Donna Shalala (FL-27), Darren Soto (FL-9), Jenniffer González-Colon (PR), and Stephanie Murphy (FL-7) introduced Wednesday the Medicare Low-Income Subsidy Expansion for Territories Act of 2019, bipartisan legislation that would allow residents of U.S. territories to become eligible for the Medicare Part D low-income subsidy (LIS) program beginning in plan year 2021.

The LIS program (also called Extra Help) assists low-income individuals by providing subsidies to fully or partially cover their out-of-pocket costs under the Medicare Part D prescription drug program. Program subsidies help reduce or completely cover the out-of-pocket cost of Medicare Part D premiums, deductibles and coinsurance, while also eliminating the prescription drug coverage gap and waiving the penalty for late enrollment into Medicare Part D.

Residents of U.S territories are currently barred from receiving LIS under Part D. In place of the low-income subsidy, territorial residents receive a fixed amount of funding to provide Medicaid-covered prescription drugs for all low-income beneficiaries. This funding can be substantially lower than the amount of federal financial support that low-income beneficiaries would receive if territorial residents were eligible for the LIS program.

“For generations, the residents of Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories have been treated like second-class citizens,” Shalala said in a joint release. “Though these territories face many inequities, poverty–particularly among seniors–may be their most daunting challenge to overcome. This bill is an important step towards alleviating poverty among seniors in Puerto Rico and other territories with aging populations, and it is also a meaningful stride towards better and more equitable treatment for American citizens who have for too long been ignored.”

“This is a step forward for Puerto Rico and the rest of the U.S. territories that have suffered from unequal treatment in several Medicare programs,” said González-Colón. “In the specific case of Puerto Rico, the current situation is critical for the elderly because of limited access to prescription drug assistance compared to the citizens of the rest of the states. H.R. 4666 would grant our duals the same right to access to Medicare Part D subsidies that other Americans enjoy. It is a step in correcting the discrimination in federal programs that our most vulnerable citizens suffer, for the only reason of wishing to remain in Puerto Rico.  I want to thank my colleagues in Congress for supporting such an important piece of legislation that will improve the quality of life of the 3.2 million American citizens that live in Puerto Rico.”

No senior should ever have to forego vital, life-saving healthcare just because of where they live,” said Soto. “At a time when Puerto Rico and the U.S. territories are still suffering from the long-standing injustice of poverty, it’s more imperative than ever that we ensure our communities get the care they deserve. I’m proud to introduce H.R. 4666 with my colleagues and I’m grateful for the bipartisan support.”

“Puerto Rico and the other U.S. territories deserve to be treated fairly. I’m proud to support this bipartisan bill that ensures low-income seniors in Puerto Rico receive the same assistance as their fellow Americans in Florida and other states to help them better afford their prescription drugs,” said Murphy, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

González Colón and Soto had also previously introduced HR 4195, Territories Medicare Prescription Drug Assistance Equality Act of 2019, a bipartisan measure that would make the Part D LIS Program applicable in the territories in the same way as is applicable stateside, to continue driving that this assistance be granted to U.S citizens residing in Puerto Rico.

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