Congress must fully fund Medicare, Medicaid, SSI, and SNAP for territories

by Aug 19, 2021Bocaítos, Congress0 comments

At Data for Progress, Edoardo Ortiz and Giovanni Pagán Vélez have published a post explaining how despite the likelihood the Congress will not fully fund health and social programs in the territories, a majority of Americans support doing so. They write:

Fulfilling a campaign promise, President Biden included parity in funding for territories in his budget proposal.  Leaders from Congress and Puerto Rico’s government spent the past couple of months lobbying to keep this proposal in the budget, but the House recently decided to instead approve a 5-year continuation to the territories’ current Medicaid funding levels. This follows precedent. Congress had approved temporary extensions of Medicaid monies since the Affordable Care Act initially provided territories with more equitable funding through block grants. Since then, funding for Puerto Rico has followed a pattern. These temporary extensions run out and territories face steep funding cliffs. Congress then, neglecting to implement a permanent fix, simply legislates another funding extension. Moreover, current legislation imposes an arbitrary cap on medicaid funding for territories that is not commensurate with their healthcare needs. By eliminating Medicaid funding caps for Territories and aligning their matching rate with States, Biden’s proposal would have provided a permanent fix and eliminated the uncertainty territories face every time Medicaid extensions run out.

All of this obscures the fact that, despite their government’s concerted efforts to prevent it, most Americans overwhelmingly support funding social programs for the territories like states.

When it comes to Medicaid and Medicare, 67 percent of Americans either strongly or somewhat support providing equal funding to the territories, with 50 percent of Republicans in favor.

When we ask similar questions about SSI and SNAP we get remarkably similar results.

Not only are the margins of support wide, but they hold for Democrats, Independents, and Republicans. Fifty-two percent of Republicans support extending SSI to the territories.

Despite these consistent and multiparty levels of support, history has shown us that the territories are often not center-stage in these discussions, and absent political representation, there is not much they can do to convince Congress to act in their favor.