Puerto Ricans are Americans—Don’t Push Them off a Fiscal Cliff

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Former Congressman Solomon Ortiz writes “Puerto Ricans are Americans—Don’t Push Them off a Fiscal Cliff” (The Daily Caller, 26 April 2017). One of his statements—“Low income and poor Puerto Ricans could be denied the ability to see a doctor, putting lives and families at risk”—reminds me that most of the related articles that I’ve read, one question comes to mind: Did no one realize that low income and poor Puerto Ricans have always had difficulties in getting to see a doctor, that their access to healthcare has been tenuous since I can remember, and that their lives and families have already been at risk for decades? In any case, here is Ortiz’s plea to Republican leadership:

Unless Republicans in Congress step up, the people of Puerto Rico are about to be dealt a terrible blow: Medicaid funding could evaporate by the end of the year. Low income and poor Puerto Ricans could be denied the ability to see a doctor, putting lives and families at risk. This would be a disaster on an epic scale, and something that I never thought I would see happen to my fellow Americans. What is most concerning is that Puerto Rico may already be at its breaking point.

As you are probably aware, Puerto Rico is already facing a terrible debt crisis that is threatening to destabilize the entire island. The facts are frightening. The Commonwealth owes creditors around $70 billion dollars. About half of the population there is living in poverty and the unemployment rate is over 12%. In many places, crime is escalating at disturbing levels and the government is struggling to fund even basic services that mainland Americans take for granted. Shockingly, its economy is expected to shrink by 16.2% in the next fiscal year.

We can argue who is to blame for the debt crisis, but what cannot be disputed is that most Puerto Ricans are simply victims of poor governance and greedy creditors all too eager to make a quick buck off of the Commonwealth’s financial problems. My bet is that neither the former government officials nor the creditors are faced with losing their healthcare by the end of the year. But that is exactly what might happen to one million poor people in Puerto Rico.

Medicaid in Puerto Rico is becoming a crisis, because for many years the Commonwealth has received much lower Medicaid reimbursement rates – than the mainland states – from the federal government. Over the years, the Congress has appropriated supplemental funding to make up for that shortfall. This supplemental funding is critical, because it ensures that healthcare providers are paid for treating Medicaid patients. However, that supplemental funding is set to expire and the Republican leadership in Congress has not taken steps or scheduled a vote to remedy this situation.

For full article, see http://dailycaller.com/2017/04/26/puerto-ricans-are-americans-dont-push-them-off-a-fiscal-cliff/#ixzz4fRLLiT5T [Accessed via National Institute for Latino Policy (NiLP)]

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