One consequence of the plan to fête terrorist Oscar López Rivera in the Puerto Rican Day Parade is the damage it has done to efforts to save the island’s health care.
Absent urgent action, the island’s care-delivery system could collapse — possibly as soon as next year. That could spark a humanitarian crisis, mass migration to the states (including New York) and higher Medicaid costs for US taxpayers.
It’s a situation in dire need of attention, yet the parade’s plans to honor López has been a distraction — and has maybe even soured Americans on helping Puerto Rico.
Why is the island’s health care at risk? Start with the fact that the commonwealth has a larger share of poor folks (45 percent) than the rest of America and relies more on Medicaid — yet for years got less in federal funding per capita than most states.
The ObamaCare law provided an extra $1 billion-plus a year through 2018. But now the island is in a dire financial crisis, and there’s no Plan B for when those funds run out next year, a scenario Puerto Rico’s leaders call the “Medicaid cliff.”
A health-care catastrophe (on US soil, no less) is reason enough for Washington to act. More than half a million people could lose their coverage.
That’s sure to ignite mass migration of these US citizens to the mainland, with both doctors and residents fleeing. From 2006 to 2016, the island’s recession alone drove 440,000 Puerto Ricans (more than 10 percent) stateside.
The kicker? US taxpayers will pay more in Medicaid for those who migrate, because costs in Puerto Rico are about 70 percent lower.
Through 2025, Medicaid for the 440,000 already here alone will run Uncle Sam $12.3 billion more than if they’d stayed, the Puerto Rican government says.
In March, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló warned Gov. Cuomo of the looming costs to this state. Between 2010 and 2015, some 40,000 Puerto Ricans came here, costing New York an extra $1.7 billion. That “will only increase” with yet more migration, he warned.
The plan to toast OLR may hurt Puerto Rico’s image (even if many residents, as Rosselló says, detest the idea). But Congress can’t let that slow efforts to save its health care. That’s a move that will save taxpayers money — and Puerto Rican lives.