On Thursday, 74 Democratic members of Congress sent a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) urging immediate action to prevent the nearly 1 million residents of Puerto Rico who rely on Medicaid from losing their coverage.
Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program receives a lower reimbursement rate than the mainland states and as a result relies on a temporary federal supplemental grant which is set to run out by the end of this year.
“Puerto Rico is already experiencing dire economic conditions and a failure to address the Medicaid cliff will be a devastating step towards further havoc,” said Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) who spearheaded the letter.
“Not only will it exacerbate the fragile economy of Puerto Rico, we are talking about a tremendous amount of people who will lose their health insurance. With a total population of around 3.5 million residents in Puerto Rico, the reality of 1 million losing coverage is unconscionable,” she said.
The letter highlights the creation of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act Task Force on Puerto Rico, which led bipartisan legislation to address the Medicaid cliff.
In the meantime, the letter asks for a short-term immediate solution to ensure full fiscal year funding for 2018 to circumvent the impending Medicaid cliff.
The text of the letter is below:
Dear Speaker Ryan:
We write to urge immediate congressional action to address the funding crisis facing Puerto Rico’s health care system. As you know, Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program receives a lower reimbursement rate than mainland states.
This low rate is being temporarily supplemented by a federal grant that expires soon. Based on projections provided by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the island’s supplemental funding will be depleted by the end of this year.
The Medicaid program is already experiencing cash flow problems. Congress’ failure to address this funding gap will not only exacerbate Puerto Rico’s already fragile fiscal condition but will deny health care coverage to nearly 1 million residents on the island.
Not addressing the cliff will also result in additional outmigration to the mainland, where the cost of providing Medicaid is much greater than on the island. We have already seen unprecedented numbers of Puerto Rican residents, including health care providers, leave the island.
The Puerto Rican Task Force established by PROMESA reached bipartisan consensus in support of fiscally-responsible legislation to address the impending Medicaid cliff. Enacting such legislation immediately is essential to provide Puerto Rico’s Medicaid agency with the certainty it needs to engage with the managed care organizations that operate the island’s Medicaid program.
While we believe that a long-term solution for Puerto Rico’s historically inadequate federal Medicaid funding is long overdue, we want to stress our support for an immediate short-term solution to ensure full fiscal year financing for 2018 to avoid the Medicaid cliff. It is time for Congress to act — and act soon — as Puerto Ricans have suffered far too long.
We are gravely concerned about the implications of the cliff and, for this reason, believe that it must have Congress’ full attention. The risks are too great to wait. Therefore, we urge you to make Medicaid funding for Puerto Rico a top priority and promptly bring legislation to the House floor as soon as possible.