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Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez

Representing the 7th District of New York

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Velázquez Demands Health Care Funding for Puerto Rico & Virgin Islands

Velázquez Demands Health Care Funding for Puerto Rico & Virgin Islands
December 1, 2017
Press Release

57 Members of Congress Write Republican Leadership to Secure Medicaid Funds
 
Washington, DC –As Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands face a growing health care crisis, today, Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) led 56 fellow members of Congress in writing to Republican Leadership demanding a temporary 100 percent increase to the federal matching rate for Medicaid funds. 
 
Additionally, the lawmakers are urging Congress to ensure evacuees receive Medicaid services in the states where they are forced to relocate. After Hurricane Katrina devastated the gulf coast, Congress took similar measures to provide affected individuals and families with Medicaid coverage. 
 
“If Congress fails to do the right thing and act swiftly to increase Medicaid funding for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, lives will literally be lost,” said Velázquez. “Just as Congress did for Katrina victims, we have a moral duty to prevent the suffering of our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.” 
 
The full text of the letter is below. For a PDF, click here

December 1, 2017
 

The Honorable Paul Ryan                                      The Honorable Mitch McConnell                    
Speaker                                                                  Majority Leader                                           
United States House of Representatives                 United States Senate
H-232, U.S. Capitol                                                317 Russell Senate Office Building    
Washington, DC 20515                                          Washington, DC 20515


Dear Speaker Ryan and Majority Leader McConnell:

We write to you regarding our grave concerns about the ongoing healthcare crisis in Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands. To prevent a deepening of the current public health crisis and avoid further fatalities in the U.S. territories we need to ensure that our fellow Americans from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are able to access the healthcare and coverage they need.  This means providing the appropriate Medicaid funding and flexibility to both the U.S. territories and the states receiving individuals displaced by Hurricanes Irma and Maria so those affected are able to receive healthcare services.

In the same fashion as the federal Medicaid matching rate was raised for the state of Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina, Congress must act to temporarily increase the federal Medicaid matching rate for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to 100 percent. This will help sustain the underlying program and address the higher demands that Hurricanes Irma and Maria created.  This also recognizes that Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands do not have the capacity to provide matching funds to draw down federal dollars under Medicaid as a result of the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the U.S. territories. 

In addition, Congress must take steps to ensure that evacuees can receive Medicaid services in the states where they were forced to relocate. This is especially important because many with serious health conditions had no choice but to leave the U.S. territories in order to continue their treatments given that Puerto Rico’s and the U.S. Virgin Islands’ infrastructure was so heavily damaged by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.  Congress should provide full reimbursement for the cost of services provided to dislocated individuals. There is precedent for such action – after Hurricane Katrina, states that hosted evacuees from Louisiana were held harmless for Medicaid costs to provide these individuals and families with coverage.

Moreover, in order to streamline eligibility and enrollment processes, Congress should allow self-attestation of eligibility factors for those from the U.S. territories as has been permitted in previous crises such as Hurricane Katrina.  Given the devastation, in many cases, Americans from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands will not have documents to support their applications because they lack access to them, for example, because they were destroyed as a result of the storms.  In addition, letting Puerto Rico’s and the U.S. Virgin Islands’ Medicaid agencies temporarily use abbreviated application forms and delay scheduled redeterminations of Medicaid eligibility would help residents who are temporarily displaced and experience delays in receiving and responding to requests sent by mail. Delaying redeterminations can also give agencies more time to handle the likely higher volume of new applicants. New York City took similar steps after the September 11th attacks.

Even before Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the U.S. territories faced severe healthcare funding challenges and shortfalls in part because healthcare spending exceeded the capped Medicaid allotment provided by the federal government. Congress engaged in bipartisan negotiations to address these shortfalls to aid the U.S. territories’ ability to provide healthcare to their communities.  In fact, before Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit, Congress acted at least twice to provide additional funding to address this ongoing healthcare issue.  

Once again, we urge action to raise available Medicaid funding and continue to negotiate on a long term structural fix that will address these issues. This will be essential to promoting economic recovery and future growth in the U.S. territories. However, it is important to recognize that without providing a temporary 100 percent federal Medicaid match, even if the caps are lifted, the U.S. territories are unlikely to be able to access such funds given their current inability to provide matching funds to draw down this essential federal funding. 

We ask that you work immediately to address these issues.  We have a duty to our fellow Americans to ease their suffering and prevent further harm in the midst of such a devastating crisis.    


Sincerely, 


Nydia M. Velázquez               Stacey Plaskett                        José E. Serrano 
Member of Congress               Member of Congress               Member of Congress

 

Luis V. Gutiérrez                    Raúl Grijalva                           Joseph Crowley
Member of Congress               Member of Congress               Member of Congress

 

Adriano Espaillat                    James P. McGovern                Norma J. Torres
Member of Congress               Member of Congress               Member of Congress   

 

Ruben Gallego                        Darren Soto                             Ray Lujan
Member of Congress               Member of Congress               Member of Congress


Elizabeth H. Esty                    John B. Larson                        Eliot L. Engel
Member of Congress               Member of Congress               Member of Congress

 

Gregory W. Meeks                  Barbara Lee                             Alcee L. Hastings       
Member of Congress               Member of Congress               Member of Congress

 

Sheila Jackson Lee                  Danny K. Davis                      Bonnie Watson Coleman                    
Member of Congress               Member of Congress               Member of Congress

 

Bennie G. Thompson              Frederica S. Wilson                 Sanford D. Bishop, Jr.
Member of Congress               Member of Congress               Member of Congress

 

Brenda L. Lawrence               Eleanor Holmes Norton          Terri Sewell
Member of Congress               Member of Congress               Member of Congress

 

Lacy Clay                                Robert A. Brady                     Zoe Lofgren
Member of Congress               Member of Congress               Member of Congress

 

Keith Ellison                           Doris Matsui                           André Carson
Member of Congress               Member of Congress               Member of Congress

 

Lucille Roybal-Allard             Brendan F. Boyle                    Gwen Moore
Member of Congress               Member of Congress               Member of Congress

 

David Scott                             Val Demings                           Mark Pocan
Member of Congress               Member of Congress               Member of Congress

 

Bobby Scott                            Donald Norcross                     A. Donald McEachin
Member of Congress               Member of Congress               Member of Congress

 

Kathy Castor                           Joe Courtney                           Suzanne Bonamici
Member of Congress               Member of Congress               Member of Congress

 

Alma S. Adams                       John Lewis                              Lisa Blunt Rochester
Member of Congress               Member of Congress               Member of Congress

 

Brian Higgins                          Stephen F. Lynch                    
Member of Congress               Member of Congress           


Kathleen M. Rice                    Carol Shea-Porter                    Louise Slaughter
Member of Congress               Member of Congress               Member of Congress

 

Grace Meng                            Jimmy Panetta                         Thomas R. Suozzi
Member of Congress               Member of Congress               Member of Congress

 

Maxine Waters
Member of Congress


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