After countless discussions about Medicaid coverage in Puerto Rico, members of Congress came to terms and agreed on a deal that will provide the program funding for the next five years. It is a bipartisan bill, with both Republicans and Democrats claiming victories from the policies proposed.
Concerns originally arose due to the disproportionate allocation of funding which did not provide enough for territories. Puerto Rico has previously received a predetermined sum of funding which is usually not enough to cover expenses. When funding falls short, low-income individuals in Puerto Rico are severely impacted and cannot access vital healthcare services. According to data from 2019, almost half of Puerto Rico’s population participated in the Medicaid program. Even further, eligibility levels for Medicaid in Puerto Rico are notably different than in the mainland US. All of this is evidence of the significant gap between Medicaid benefits in Puerto Rico and other territories as opposed to in the states. New Jersey Sen. Bob Menéndez, one of the senators speaking for the bill, notes that if passed, it will provide important funding to improve the Puerto Rican healthcare system. Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer agreed, stating that the funding would ensure healthcare stability for Puerto Rican hospitals and providers.
The deal, as a part of the omnibus appropriations bill, will delegate more than $17.6 billion dollars over the next five years to Puerto Rico to cover its Medicaid costs. Assuming the bill passes an additional round of voting, Puerto Rico will receive the funding in yearly increments. This amount is equivalent to the federal funding allocated to Puerto Rico at the beginning of the pandemic. If the bill fails, however, and funding is reversed, the funding will be decreased to the pre-pandemic rate of $400 million. In order to stabilize the healthcare system in Puerto Rico, and provide access to medical services for citizens, Congress must officially pass the bill. If not, Medicaid in Puerto Rico will be inadequate to address the needs of the citizens.