Updated to include the Velazquez Medicaid letter to Speaker Ryan.
Congress is expected to pass this week legislation that provides $296 million for Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program.
The proposal, which was released early this morning, is scheduled for a vote before the House of Representatives on Wednesday. A Senate vote could be held as early as Thursday before the bill goes to the White House for President Trump’s expected signature by Friday.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) praised Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón for her hard work. “The people of Puerto Rico can rest easy knowing that your diligence and creativity ensures them a strong voice in Washington,” he wrote in a letter to her. “Without your unique approach to solving difficult problems, we would have been unable to get the relief that your constituents need.”
The Speaker also recognized that further work will be needed on the U.S. territory’s health care program. “I look forward to our work to ensure that Mi Salud continues to provide high quality health care,” he wrote “and we have you to thank for additional funding for the Mi Salud program.”
“Together we can work to strengthen our relationship and ensure that Puerto Rico sees robust economic growth, higher wages, and more jobs,” he concluded.
Puerto Rico’s funding in the broad federal appropriations bill was viewed as necessary and timely in light of expiring contracts with insurers in Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program.
Last week, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price extended the deadline for Puerto Rico to submit its Medicaid managed care contracts to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) for approval to May 5, 2017. In a letter, he noted the “close relationship that has developed between [Resident Commissioner Gonzalez-Colon’s] Medicaid staff and the CMS regional office team” and a “continued relationship” as HHS “work(s) towards strengthening the Medicaid and Medicare programs for all beneficiaries.”
In two tweets last week, President Trump had accused Democrats of “trying to bail out” Puerto Rico. Democrats in Congress responded on Twitter. Florida Rep. Stephanie Murphy tweeted, “Let’s be clear: residents of Puerto Rico are American citizens. They fight and die for this country in our Armed Forces. Yet Puerto Rico is treated unfairly under federal health programs, which harms quality of life and spurs migration. Members of Congress from both parties, including myself, Senator Nelson and Senator Rubio, are working hard to help the island receive fairer treatment. This isn’t a “bailout.” This is simple justice for our fellow Americans.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer also responded, “Puerto Ricans’ health care is as impt as any other American’s – ALL elected should see that.”
On April 5th, Rep. Nydia Velazquez sent a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan asking for “immediate congressional action to address the funding crisis facing Puerto Rico’s health care system.” She was joined by 73 of her Democratic colleagues, including all of the Democrats in New York’s congressional delegation.
View the letter from Speaker Ryan to Resident Commissioner González-Colón by clicking here.
View the letter from HHS Secretary Price to Resident Commissioner González-Colón by clicking here.
View the letter from Rep. Nydia Velazquez to Speaker Ryan here.