Earlier today, the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee passed the Territories Health Care Improvement Act (H.R. 3631) on a bipartisan basis.
Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Pallone (D-NJ) and Health Subcommittee Chairwoman Eshoo (D-CA) spoke in support of the bill, with Eshoo calling the federal Medicaid cap “arbitrary” and “discriminatory.” She said that “for too long” the territories have struggled with their limited funding. “There is a real history” behind the unequal treatment, she noted with a sense of injustice. Chairwoman Eshoo recognized that Congress will still need to work on a permanent fix for Medicaid in the U.S. territories. “Let’s keep this on track and keep it moving,” she added before concluding that Congress “is recognizing” the discriminatory treatment of the territories.
Chairman Pallone emphasized that the cap is “absolutely devastating” during a period of natural disaster and highlighted the proposal’s program integrity provisions. He added that it is still important for the Committee to “come up with a permanent solution” for the U.S. territories.
Rep. Bilirakis (R-FL) also spoke in favor of the legislation and emphasized the need for program integrity provisions in light of yesterday’s news.
Full Committee Ranking Member Walden (R-OR) also pointed to the recent news alleging the misuse of federal funds by Puerto Rican officials and similarly called for additional program integrity provisions to be included in H.R. 3631 before the full committee markup. After he spoke, Chairman Pallone agreed that we need “rigorous” oversight and that more program integrity provisions may be needed in the current bill. He called yesterday’s arrest of the Medicaid program director “troubling” but explained that since the charges broke only yesterday, there was insufficient time to add the protections to the bill in time for today’s subcommittee markup.
A livestream video of Subcommittee consideration can be found here at the 2-hour and 44-minute mark.