Governor Rosselló sent a letter to Congressional leadership yesterday requesting action to address the growing crisis in Puerto Rico’s healthcare system. The letter was addressed to Senate Majority Leader Mitchell McConnell (R-KY), Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI), Senate Democratic Leader Senate Charles Schumer (R-NY), and Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
After the House and Senate passed the emergency supplemental package, Rosselló reminded leadership of the unequal treatment of the island in federal healthcare programs, the instability of federal funding, and the out-migration of doctors and medical providers that weaken the system. These natural disasters have brought the island’s healthcare system to the brink of collapse.
Governor Rosselló wrote in the letter that “there is an urgent need for Congress to stabilize the federal funding structure for Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program by continuing the current funding levels.” If the levels of funding do not remain the same, Rosselló writes that the healthcare system “is going to experience a sharp drop in funding early next year, the so-called ‘Medicaid Cliff’.”
Rosselló requested that Congress increase the statutory cap on Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program to the Trump Administration’s FY 2018 Budget Request level of approximately $1.6 billion for a period of at least five years, in line with the duration of the reauthorization of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).
In addition, Congress should consider “eliminating the wrap-around payment requirement for federally qualified health centers, which costs the state government approximately $120 million a year” Rosselló writes. These actions would help stabilize the funding for Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program on the island to recover from the current crisis and adapt to the new normal, the letter states.
Rosselló suggests addressing the Medicaid Cliff as part of the SCHIP reauthorization proposed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee because it provides a natural legislative vehicle for Congress. The other pillar of Puerto Rico’s healthcare system, Medicare, the Government of Puerto Rico “will also request that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) use its discretionary authority to set the Medicare payment rates for services to Puerto Rico dialysis patients and for the Medicare Advantage program to be closer to the U.S. national average, or at least the level of the U.S. Virgin Islands”, the letter adds.
In conclusion, Rosselló asks for the support of leadership “for these legislative and administrative requests to make sure that the healthcare needs of the most vulnerable in Puerto Rico are not put in jeopardy during this very sensitive period for Puerto Rico.”