(March 17, 2021 – Washington, DC) – Today, Governor Pedro R. Pierluisi, in a written statement submitted to the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, asked Congress to transition Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program to a state-like program that will eliminate the disparities that for years have limited the access to quality healthcare to the island’s most vulnerable population. The written statement was submitted as part of the hearing entitled: “Averting a Crisis: Protecting Access to Health Care in the U.S. Territories.” The hearing included two panels of witnesses, consisting of the representatives and delegates of the five U.S. territories and several field experts on healthcare. Among the witnesses was the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico, Jenniffer González-Colón.
In his statement, the Governor addressed the disparities between the states and Puerto Rico’s healthcare program and once again forewarned members of the Committee of the upcoming Medicaid cliff. Additionally, the Governor accentuated the historical limitations and shortfalls affecting Medicaid funding, providing context for the unequal treatment of Puerto Rico in the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (“FMAP”), which is set by statute at 55 percent, but would likely be above an 80 percent if it were based on a formula that takes into account Puerto Rico’s average per capita income.
While the Governor recognized in his testimony that there had been some improvements to the Medicaid program during the past few years, he also noted that these have been temporary and not long-term solutions.
“While these increases have helped provide greater access to healthcare for our vulnerable populations, Puerto Rico is facing once again a Medicaid cliff on September 30, 2021. If we were to “hit the cliff”, federal Medicaid funding would revert to the $392.5 million cap and the 55 percent FMAP, creating an enormous budget shortfall,” said Governor Pedro R. Pierluisi.
“If no action is taken by the Congress, approximately 600,000 individuals will lose their healthcare benefits out of which 200,000 are part of a vulnerable population that will lose coverage because the scales would revert to previous poverty levels. We must also not forget that Puerto Rico has been affected as severely by the COVID-19 pandemic as other parts of the Nation, and our Medicaid program has been impacted with increased expenses to cover tests, vaccines, and treatments. It is time to move from the uncertain and unstable temporary funding system for Medicaid and transition to a state-like program and an FMAP based on Puerto Rico’s per capita income relative to that of the Nation. I support the efforts of Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González- Colón and others in Congress to propose changes in Medicaid funding and look forward to continuing to work with Congress and the White House on a solution for our island’s healthcare,” concluded the Governor.
“PRFAA will continue to work with Congress to address the disparities in Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program and the upcoming Medicaid cliff on September 2021. It is of the utmost importance that Puerto Rico has access to quality healthcare during this pandemic and that Congress acts promptly on a permanent fix for the island’s Medicaid program,” stated PRFAA’s Executive Director, Carmen M. Feliciano.