Congressional Democrats Ask for Medical Support for Puerto Rico

Almost 60 Democratic Member of Congress sent a letter last week to U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and U.S. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) regarding the ongoing healthcare crisis in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

The letter begins with a succinct desire to “avoid further fatalities” in the U.S. territories affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. “This means providing the appropriate Medicaid funding and flexibility,” it continues. “In the same fashion as the federal Medicaid matching rate was raised for the state of Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina, Congress must act to temporarily increase the federal Medicaid matching rate for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to 100 percent.”

The letter points out that the territories simply don’t have the funds available to take care of matching funds. Awarding only funds that require an investment by Puerto Rico effectively leaves the Island with no funding.

The authors emphasize that “Congress must take steps to ensure that evacuees can receive Medicaid services in the states where they were forced to relocate.” Since Puerto Ricans are citizens of the U.S. and can travel freely, many states are seeing an influx of people from the Island. “Many with serious health conditions,” they point out, “had no choice but the leave the U.S. territories in order to continue their treatments.”

The letter also asks for simplification of the process for gaining healthcare funding. Many individuals have lost their documents in the storm and flooding. “Congress should allow self-attestation of eligibility factors for those from the U.S. territories,” the letter suggests, “as has been permitted in previous crises such as Hurricane Katrina.”

Abbreviated application forms and delayed redetermination processes are other suggestions. The letter points out that this was allowed following the World Trade Center attack in New York, as well as in response to other natural disasters.

“Even before Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” the letter goes on, “the U.S. territories faced severe healthcare funding challenges and shortfalls in part because healthcare spending exceeded the capped Medicaid allotment provides by the federal government.”

The letter concludes with a request for immediate action. “We have a duty to our fellow Americans to ease their suffering and prevent further harm in the midst of such a devastating crisis.”

The list of signers:

Nydia Velazquez (D-NY)
Stacey Plaskett (D-VI)
Jose Serrano (D-NY)
Luis Gutierrez (D-IL)
Raul Grijalva (D-AZ)
Joseph Crowley (D-NY)
Adriano Espaillat (D-NY)
James McGovern (D-MA)
Norma Torres (D-CA)
Ruben Gallego (D-AZ)
Darren Soto (D-FL)
Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM)
Eliot Engel (D-NY)
Gregory Meeks (D-NY)
Barbara Lee (D-CA)
Alcee Hastings (D-FL)
Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX)
Danny Davis (D-IL)
Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ)
Bennie Thompson (D-MS)
Frederica Wilson (D-FL)
Sanford Bishop (D-GA)
Brenda Lawrence (D-MI)
Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC)
Terri Sewell (D-AL)
Willam “Lacy” Clay (D-MO)
Robert Brady (D-MA)
Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)
Keith Ellison (D-MN)
Doris Matsui (D-CA)
Andre Carson (D-IN)
Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA)
Brendan Boyle (D-PA)
Gwen Moore (D-WI)
David Scott (D-GA)
Val Demings (D-FL)
Mark Pocan (D-WI)
Robert “Bobby” Scott (D-VA)
Donald Norcross (D-NJ)
Donald McEachin (D-VA)
Kathy Castor (D-FL)
Joe Courtney (D-CT)
Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR)
Alma Adams (D-NC)
John Lewis (D-GA)
Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE)
Brian Higgins (D-NY)
Stephen Lynch (D-MA)
Kathleen Rice (D-NY)
Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH)
Louise Slaughter (D-NY)
Grace Meng (D-NY)
James Panetta (D-CA)
Thomas Suozzi (D-NY)
Maxine Waters (D-CA)

Read the full letter.

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