WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Puerto Rico, struggling to recover from hurricane damage, could receive $1 billion in additional funding for the Medicaid health insurance program for the poor under a proposal from a U.S. House of Representatives panel, a congressional aide said on Tuesday.
Republicans who lead the House Energy and Commerce Committee included the request for more Medicaid funding for Puerto Rico as part of a separate bill to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program. It is scheduled to be considered and voted on in committee on Wednesday.
The U.S. territorial island, hard-hit by Hurricane Maria, already had faced a drop-off of Medicaid funding at the end of the year, according to the Washington Post, which first reported Republicans’ plan.
Now Puerto Rico also faces massive damage from Maria that wiped out much of its infrastructure, left hospitals struggling and residents without clean water, electricity and cellphone service.
Committee spokeswoman Jennifer Sherman said the panel would take up the bill on Wednesday as part of its effort to renew funding for the larger U.S. children’s insurance program, which saw its funding expire during the weekend.
Under the proposal, Puerto Rico would receive $880 million through 2019. It also would get another $120 million if its financial oversight board certified that the joint federal-state program there had taken steps to prevent fraud and abuse and improve efficiency, among other oversight steps.
Lawmakers sought to pay for the additional Medicaid funding by charging higher premiums on wealthier people in the Medicare health insurance program for seniors, and redirecting some prevention health funding from community-based health centers, among other changes, according to a copy of the plan.
Republican U.S. President Donald Trump visits the island on Tuesday amid criticism over his administration’s response to the storm. [nL2N1ME09T]
About 3.4 million people live in Puerto Rico, which in recent years had faced recession and, in May, bankruptcy.
Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Writing Susan Heavey; Editing by Bill Trott