White House seeks $30B in Medicaid funds for Puerto Rico

Providers in Puerto Rico could potentially see some financial relief in the coming weeks, as the Obama administration has proposed $30 billion in additional Medicaid funding for the island over the next decade, The Washington Post has reported.

Puerto Rican advocates embraced the proposal but Republican lawmakers were skeptical.

"We applaud President Obama for putting Puerto Rico on a path to parity on Medicaid funding. While this is a step in the right direction, the federal government needs to quickly address the Island's underfunded Medicare program," Dennis Rivera, president of the Puerto Rico Healthcare Crisis Coalition, told the Latin Post. "Saving the Medicare program is of particular importance as Puerto Rico's aging population continues to grow."

Puerto Rico has $72 billion worth of debt, and it has been on the verge of insolvency--an issue that has hit its provider community hard, as Medicaid payments tend to be at much lower rates than in any of the states. On average, providers receive about 70 percent less than providers stateside, precipitating in part some of the fiscal crisis. Meanwhile, the island is also facing a double-digit cut in Medicare Advantage payments.

In addition to the supplementary Medicaid payments, the Obama administration is also asking for another $250 million for Puerto Rico to battle potential outbreaks of the Zika virus.

Congressional Democrats have been pushing for legislation that would allow Puerto Rico to declare bankruptcy in order to restructure its debts, according to The Washington Post. But Republican leaders have questioned that approach. "I do not believe the administration has been straightforward about the nature of the debt restructuring authority it is seeking for the territory," Senate Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, told Treasury Secretary Jack Lew at a hearing earlier this week, the Post reported.

To learn more:
- read The Washington Post article 
- check out the Latin Post article