Darren Soto: American Citizens in Puerto Rico, Territories Should Have Equal Access to Medicaid

This week, U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla., brought out a bill ensuring American citizens in the territories have equal access to Medicaid.

Soto’s “Territories Health Care Improvement Act” would increase the limit on Medicaid payments and the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage for Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands.

“As we continue our efforts to provide affordable health care for all Americans and work to protect the Affordable Care Act, we must also act on parity of health care between American citizens in the mainland and those in U.S territories,” Soto said on Wednesday. “Under the current archaic system, unequal access to federal resources puts a strain on the territories’ Medicaid programs, especially areas with ongoing health care crises exacerbated by hurricanes. Our plan ensures families have continued access to health care while immediately relieving financial pressures on the territories. Every American citizen deserves equal access to Medicaid coverage.”

Soto’s office listed out how the bill would work.

“The legislation provides a path away from capped federal funds for Medicaid program to several years of increased allotments, totaling $12 billion for Puerto Rico, $762 million for Guam, $756 million for USVI, $504 million for American Samoa, and $360 million for Northern Marianas. It also implements important program integrity provisions, including a new asset verification system and payment error rate measurements, both already required for state Medicaid programs. All territories will also need to report annually to Congress on the expenditures of increased Medicaid funds,” Soto’s office noted.

“The Territories Health Care Improvement Act creates a new funding structure increasing the matching rate Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP): Puerto Rico: 83 percent for the first two years of additional funds, and 76 percent for the final two years. Guam, American Samoa, and CNMI: 100 percent for two years, 83 percent for three years, and 76 percent for one year. U.S. Virgin Islands: 100 percent for one year, 83 percent for four years, and 75 percent for one year,” Soto’s office added.

Soto reeled in a host of cosponsors including U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., U.S. Rep. Jenniffer González-Colón, R-PR, U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-NY, and U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-NY.

The bill was sent to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday. So far, there is no companion measure over in the U.S. Senate.

 

Reach Kevin Derby at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com.

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