Puerto Rico’s representative in Congress said Wednesday that island’s public health-care costs will be covered for two years as part of a proposed two-year budget deal announced in the Senate.
“That eliminates the concern of a Medicaid cliff,” she said in Spanish.
Nearly 1 million Puerto Ricans are enrolled in the island’s Medicaid program, which was quickly running out of funds even before hurricanes Irma and Maria struck the island last year.
González-Colón said the funds could be approved as early as tomorrow, crediting House Republicans with adding language to a disaster relief package that includes Puerto Rico.
González-Colón said the two-year extension on federal funding would allow the island’s government to regroup and come up with a long-term plan.
Territories are not subject to federal income taxes, and therefore normally receive only 15 to 20 percent of their Medicaid costs from the federal government, but this deal would fully fund the program in the cash-strapped territory.
“The Medicaid cliff we had in April will now receive 100 percent of federal and state funds, so the state government will not have to pay for two years straight, while a final solution to the Medicaid problem for territories is achieved,” said González-Colón.
Puerto Rico’s Medicaid beneficiaries are much less expensive to maintain on the program than people enrolled in the mainland.
Politicians on both sides of the aisle have said that a collapse of the island’s health-care system would precipitate an influx of Puerto Rican Medicaid beneficiaries in states like Florida and Texas, ultimately costing the government more.
Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens by birth and can freely move about the country and register for social services anywhere in the United States.
González-Colón also announced the budget deal will include $2 billion for the island’s electric grid, $15 billion to the Army Corps of Engineers for infrastructure recovery projects and $28 million for Community Development Grants.