With a struggling health care system and about a hundred identified cases of Zika virus spreading in Puerto Rico, President Barack Obama’s 2017 budget proposal suggested to Congress an increase in the number of beneficiaries of Medicaid, by proposing an increase of 83 per cent of the federal share of costs of the health care program. If passed, this proposal will provide $30 billion for the Puerto Rico healthcare system over a period of 9 years. This will help to relieve some of the heavy debt on the already debt-stricken island. It will also provide access to quality and affordable healthcare for almost half of the 3.5 million American residents with low incomes and depends upon the public health system for their medical care.

[graphiq id=”3rMxBI1UZzD” title=”Reported Zika Virus Cases in the United States” width=”600″ height=”591″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/3rMxBI1UZzD” link=”http://conditions.healthgrove.com/l/1368/Zika-Virus-Disease” link_text=”Reported Zika Virus Cases in the United States | HealthGrove”]

“We are committed to continuing our work to strengthen Puerto Rico’s health care system and improve health outcomes on the island using available administrative authorities” said United States Department of Health & Human Services  Secretary Sylvia Burwell in a released statement. Furthermore, the HHS suggested that Congress should provide the healthcare assistance program to Puerto Rico, the same way it is provided to the 50 states. In addition to that, there have been critics on the lack of a long-term solution for Puerto Rico, due to the legislative inaction on the inadequate treatment of Puerto Rico under the federal statute. This can be particularly seen on the way the island’s U.S citizens pay the same Medicare tax as mainland residents, but receive half the rate of federal healthcare funding. As Puerto Rico and the other territories‘ struggle with their limited capacity to respond to emergent and growing health needs, the HHS continues to emphasize on a more urgent need of the funds in order to fight the Zika virus.

Furthermore, the HHS has requested that congress enact a temporary one-year increase in the territories’ federal Medicaid share, that will consist of $250 million. From 2009-2014, the HHS has made huge investments totalling around $9.5 billion in Puerto Rico’s health care system to improve the health and well-being of the 3.5 million Americans living in Puerto Rico. Among other programs funded in that period, the administration has invested in expanding early childhood education and child care programs, provided access to health insurance and health care services through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Medicaid,  supported food safety and security monitoring projects, and helped people with disabilities and older adults to live with dignity and independence.