U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said yesterday that he will press next year for longer term Federal funding for Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program.
His statement came after two developments. The first was President Trump insisting that the cost of extensions of several health programs, including Medicaid in Puerto Rico, which congressional leaders agreed to add to the $1.37 trillion agreement on funding for Fiscal Year 2020 be cut in half because of a lack of budget offsets. The President’s position led to appropriations for the first two years of a four-year agreement on Medicaid increases for Puerto Rico and the U.S.’ four other territories and only five months of appropriations for national health programs, such as Community Health Centers.
The second development was the Press Secretary of the President’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Chase Jennings, saying, “Trimming Medicaid funds to Puerto Rico from approximately $12 billion to $ 5.7 billion is a victory for President Trump and the American people. With the historic loss of money we have faced in Puerto Rico, no additional funds were needed or fiscally responsible.”
Jennings’ statement did not reflect the fact that reducing the appropriations for Medicaid in Puerto Rico from four years to two did not reduce the spending for the two years and that additional funds will still be needed – and possibly available – for FYs 2022 and ’23. The agreement increased the Federal support for Medicaid in Puerto Rico from $375.1 million this Federal fiscal year contingent on the territory matching the Federal dollars on a 45% territorial/55% Federal basis to more than $5.742 billion over two years with territorial matching by Puerto Rico at only 24%.
Jenning’s statement did, however, open the door for Schumer to charge that Trump’s action was another case of his “personal vendetta“ against and “disdain” for Puerto Rico. “It is absolutely shameful that President Trump rejected a proposal that included four years of Medicaid funding for our American citizens in Puerto Rico, which has strong support both in the House and in the Senate,” Schumer thundered.
He went on to reveal that “I intend to return to this vital issue in 2020 and I will do everything in my power to build on this multi-year agreement and provide more years of funding to fully address the main inequities facing the health system of Puerto Rico. I will not allow President Trump’s hateful revenge against Puerto Rico to get in the way so that children and families do not receive the medical care they deserve.”