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A medically-induced myopia

by | Aug 11, 2022 | Opinion, Puerto Rico | 0 comments

Territorial status silently subdues Puerto Ricans as wicked relics enlighten modern policies. Dr. Cornelius Rhoads, a renowned pathologist, encapsulated this dilemma in his anti-Boricua rampage. The physician’s samaritan aims devolved into a quest to eliminate the “most degenerate and feverish race of men ever inhabiting this sphere.”

A 1931 letter detailed his exterminatory blueprint. The objective: cleanse Puerto Rico by transplanting cancer into its inhabitants. TIME Magazine later touted Dr. Rhoads as a “Cancer Fighter” for his advances in oncology. The cover feature reminds Puerto Ricans of a civilizing venom and deliberate ignorance souring the US mainland. 

Two decades later, Boricuas served as guinea pigs for the birth control movement. A drug experimented on rats and rabbits endangered the lives of 1500 women. Dehumanized and exploited, these pioneers wagered their well-being for female empowerment—their tales, however, are whitewashed under the heroism of Margaret Sanger and Betty Friedan.

Puerto Rico now faces a covert attack on the right to life—a bureaucratic barrage threatening its health care system. The bigotry underpinning American imperialism festers in the US code. 

While states receive Medicaid funding in proportion to their expenditures, territories garner a fixed amount of federal assistance. Thus, the Puerto Rican government must reach into its insolvent pockets to sustain a crumbling medical structure. Boricuas earning below $6,600 in yearly income qualify for Medicaid, securing $2,144 in health benefits. A resident of the median US state would encounter a $17,236 eligibility cap and reap $6,700 in benefits. This deplorable disparity enshrines the territories’ 2nd-class status, sacrificing American lives at the expense of bipartisan apathy. 

Monetary injustice threatens Puerto Rico’s day-to-day functioning—the economy’s bedrock, its people, cannot access the care they require. Boricua patients wait for roughly 3 times longer than the national average, with access to less than half the number of specialty physicians. Low payment rates induced this medical diaspora, as professionals flock to the mainland for higher salaries and industry stability.

President Biden’s Build Back Better Act tendered a 20% increase in Medicaid allotments for Puerto Rico. However, the bill throws fruitless funds at a thorny scourge. Politicians cannot be reactionaries—the economy and health care must be addressed in tandem.

The federal government can elevate Puerto Rico to a sliding payment scale, adjusted by the territory’s average income. A fluid eligibility cap, corresponding with inflationary price hikes, would expand coverage to uninsured individuals below the poverty threshold. 

In 2021, Representative Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) introduced a bill to ensure Medicaid parity between Puerto Rico and US States. The legislation shrewdly appeals to the Puerto Rican community within her district, yet its righteous bylaws have stalled in Congress. 

This extension of Puerto Rican Medicaid entails a sustainable pipeline of homegrown physicians. Federal funds could incentivize Puerto Rican doctors to serve their homeland by subsidizing medical schools. Woefully ignored specialties, serviced by a generation of emerging physicians, would mend the system’s deficiencies. Mental health and elderly care could become pivotal fixtures in a revamped medical structure—simply put, society’s most vulnerable warrant access to these rudimentary rights.

Partisanship corrupts our politicians’ moral backbones. They are subject to special-interest puppeteers, whose heaps of dark money foster gridlock. Their cruel silence will be remembered no differently than Dr. Cecil Rhoads—both tales of American carnage.



Jake Siesel

Jake Siesel

Jake is a senior at Providence Day School in Charlotte, North Carolina. He strives to ignite grassroots advocacy, utilizing an attorneyship at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Teen Court and the platform at Pasquines to champion justice in his community and beyond. Jake utilizes education as a forum for change. He serves as an educator for young scholars, contributing to the Teen Board for Freedom School Partners, mentoring for Big Brother Big Sisters of America, and teaching at a Hebrew School. At Providence Day, Jake spearheads Students for the Political Advancement of Mankind and the Hispanic Culture Club, along with playing for the Varsity Tennis Team. Jake is an Opinion Intern Correspondent at Pasquines.


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