Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon, Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico, wrote to Jose Carrión, chair of the PROMESA fiscal oversight board, “I am writing to reiterate my request that you advise the Congress and the President of the United States of the need to replace the Federal funding for healthcare for low-income individuals that Puerto Rico will have used up by the end of this year.”
Gonzalez-Colon is not the only one calling for a solution to the inequity in federal healthcare funding.
Governor Rossello has expressed his intention to keep fighting for healthcare support. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said in his nomination hearings that “We absolutely have to find the resources to make sure [the people of Puerto Rico] have the health care they need . . . They are American citizens and we have to take that responsibility seriously.”
The Task Force on Economic Growth in Puerto Rico made the same recommendations.
“Unless the Federal government acts,” Gonzalez-Colon wrote, “the Government of Puerto Rico will lose $1.3 billion a year in Federal contributions to Medicaid.”
The letter goes on to lay out some likely consequences if this happens:
- Puerto Rico would lose 80% of current federal funding, about 44% of total Medicaid spending in the territory.
- 470,000 people could lose their Medicaid coverage.
- The additional costs to Puerto Rico would make it difficult to meet the board’s healthcare savings goals.
- Puerto Ricans who lost healthcare might leave for the States, which would depress Puerto Rico’s economy further without saving federal dollars.
Gonzalez-Colon assures the board that she has explained this to the Congress and to Price. “They appear to understand the situation and want to address it,” she tells the Carrion, “but yours is a crucial missing voice of authority because of your responsibility for the territory’s budget.”
The letter goes on to point out that Puerto Rico doesn’t have the representation in the federal government that a state has. “The problem would not exist in the first place if it did,” says Gonzalez-Colon. “The islands would be treated equally with the States in Medicaid and all other Federal programs.”
The letter closes with a repetition of the request that the board speak to the President and the Congress. “Federal officials will hold you advice on this matter in the highest regard,” says Gonzalez-Colon. “As of now, all the know from the Board’s letters to the Governor is that, despite your sympathy, you have recommended reducing spending for healthcare in the islands.”
The day after the letter was sent, ReOrg Research reported that Carrión told reporters that the board would push Congress on economic issues but called healthcare the most “pressing issue.” He added, “We are going to help the resident commissioner and the governor, because this is an issue that is essential for the people of Puerto Rico and the government of Puerto Rico.”