President Trump has spoken out on Puerto Rico — in a pair of tweets:
“The Democrats want to shut government if we don’t bail out Puerto Rico and give billions to their insurance companies for OCare failure. NO!”
“Democrats are trying to bailout insurance companies from disastrous #ObamaCare, and Puerto Rico with your tax dollars. Sad!”
Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy(D-FL) took issue with the word “bailout.”
“Let’s be clear,” she posted at Facebook, “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.”
As the New York magazine’s Daily Intelligencer pointed out, the alleged billion dollar insurance company bailout is actually relatively nominal funding to help sustain the U.S. territory’s underfunded Medicaid program.
“Puerto Ricans are American citizens who pay taxes. But unlike other citizens, they live in an area where Medicaid is not funded as an entitlement — available to all who qualify for aid — but rather, as a block grant. Now, due to a debt crisis that our federal government is complicit in perpetuating, the island will run out of Medicaid funding by the end of this year. At that point, a half-million of its residents will likely lose access to health coverage.
“Democrats are imploring Republicans to include funding for Puerto Rico’s Medicaid plan in the next spending bill. The case for doing so is not merely humanitarian. If 500,000 Puerto Ricans lose access to health insurance, a good number will avail themselves of their citizenship rights and move to the mainland. This would swell the Medicaid rolls of U.S. states, where the cost of covering the medical care of low-income residents is far higher than it is in Puerto Rico.”
Similarly, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) tweeted El Nuevo Dia coverage on the subject. The Puerto Rico publication argued, “At this critical juncture, we should all join to ask President Trump to wisely use the power bestowed upon him, instead of attacking the men and women who have given everything, even their lives, every time the United States has needed them. From the President, we expect noble and assertive actions to ensure the justice we Puerto Ricans deserve and demand.” Senator Schumer added to his tweet, “Completely agree. Puerto Ricans’ health care is as impt as any other American’s –ALL electeds should see that.”
Democrats and Republicans have both spoken out in support of funding for Puerto Rico. The bipartisan Congressional Task Force on Economic Growth in Puerto Rico, headed by Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT), recommended in December that Puerto Rico’s Medicaid challenges be addressed in early 2017. Similarly, Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez (R-PR) has introduced legislation calling for increased Medicaid resources for Puerto Rico.