A continuing resolution has passed the U.S. House of Representatives, setting Congress on a path to avert a scheduled government shutdown on September 30 by extending federal spending until November 21, 2019. A provision to help Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program was included in the bill.
Current federal law enables Puerto Rico to receive roughly half of its Medicaid funding from the federal government. The local government must make up the difference, which poses a challenge in Puerto Rico due to the U.S. territory’s financial difficulties.
States receive as much as 83% reimbursement, depending on the average income level in the State. They also continue to receive funding throughout the year, while Puerto Rico has a cap on federal finding. When that amount is spent, the federal government stops providing any funds and once again the local government must figure out how to cover the costs.
The federal spending cap and lower matching rate mean that Puerto Rico receives significantly less Medicaid spending than if it were a state.
At least for another two months, however, the federal government will pick up the full cost of Medicaid for the territories under the terms of the Continuing Resolution.
Dr. Víctor Ramos, president of the Puerto Rico College of Physicians and Surgeons, asked that the reimbursement level permanently be set at 83%, the funding Puerto Rico would receive as a state, going forward. Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL) and Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colon (R-PR) have introduced a bill making this a permanent change.
While the continuing resolution does not consider long-term solutions for the territories, Puerto Rico can expect to face another Medicaid cliff if no long-term changes are made.
On to the Senate
Now that the bill has passed in the House of Representatives, it will go on to the Senate, where it is expected to pass next week. After both House and Senate versions pass, President Trump is expected to sign the bill.
The continuing resolution gives lawmakers time to work on spending bills for 2020 and the rest of 2019.