Florida Congressman Patrick Murphy (D), along with fellow Floridian Democratic Representatives Corrine Brown, Alcee Hasting, Debbie Wasserman Schulz, Kathy Castor, Ted Deutch, Frederica Wilson, Lois Frankel, and Gwen Graham, wrote a letter of concern to Pedro Pierluisi, Resident Commissioner for Puerto Rico.
The letter expressed concern about the healthcare crisis which is building in Puerto Rico in the wake of the debt crisis.
“Florida is home to over one million individuals of Puerto Rican birth or descent,” the letter began. “In 2014 alone, as estimated 84,000 individuals moved from Puerto Rico to the states, with 28,000 taking up residence in Florida. While we welcome those who relocate from Puerto Rico with open arms and deeply value their contributions to our state, they should not be forced to leave their homes and their families due to a rapidly deteriorating economic and health care situation.”
This reference to the increasing flow of people from Puerto Rico to the States echoes a point being made with increased frequency in the halls of Congress: if Congress refuses to help the people of Puerto Rico while they live in Puerto Rico, Congress will end up helping them after they move to the mainland.
The damage to Puerto Rico has already been severe, and the exodus of mostly working-age people will continue to make it increasingly difficult to improve Puerto Rico’s economy. Puerto Rico may receive less federal money to cope with the needs of its people, but the states will receive more as they find places for the diaspora in schools, on roads, and in hospitals. Federal spending will not be reduced, but the government of Puerto Rico will suffer along with the people who continue to live on the Island.
The letter continues with a focus on healthcare. “[I]n 2015, total healthcare spending per capita in Puerto Rico was approximately $3,400 — well below the national average of about $10,000.” The lower spending was not a reflection of less need in Puerto Rico, the letter said, and “a significant portion of this underfunding is the result of disparities between how Medicare and Medicaid funding is allocated.”
The inequality in federal healthcare funding makes it difficult for patients in Puerto Rico to get the medical attention they need, including prescription drugs and preventive care.
The letter continued with a statement affirming the need for equality in health care funding and congressional leadership. “For the 3.5 million Americans living in Puerto Rico,” it concluded, “congressional inaction will make an unsustainable situation worse. On behalf of the one million Puerto Ricans who call Florida home, we will continue to stand with you to comprehensively address the emergency in Puerto Rico.”