Health advocates in Puerto Rico warn of 'crippling' Medicare crisis

 

Leading healthcare advocates in Puerto Rico are pressing congressional Republicans not to ignore the island’s healthcare crisis as they craft debt-relief legislation.

“This chronic underfunding is crippling the Island’s healthcare system,” a group of about a dozen health and business leaders wrote in a letter to Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanSenate Dems: We won't help pass additional health bills Centrists balk at GOP ObamaCare bill House Dems seethe at GOP plan for healthcare bill: 'Where the hell is it?' MORE (R-Wis.) on Monday.

The groups, including the Chamber of Commerce and the Puerto Rico Hospital Association, specifically call on Congress to boost reimbursement rates for Medicare and Medicaid.

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About 60 percent of people living in Puerto Rico receive Medicare or Medicaid, though the territory receives less than half the federal healthcare dollars of any state.

Without more funding to help sustain the programs, the letter warns it will become even harder for people to receive healthcare in Puerto Rico.

“We desperately need relief from recent reductions in our rates. Without it, our ability to provide care is simply unsustainable,” Jim O’Drobinak, president of the Medicaid and Medicare Advantage Product Association, wrote in a statement.

Ryan has vowed the House GOP will act on legislation described as an economic lifeline to the struggling island. It would allow Puerto Rico to restructure its debt to avoid defaulting on payments later this year. A draft of that bill was released last week, and has been widely condemned by those in the healthcare sector.

Puerto Rico has long warned about a looming healthcare crisis, with more doctors seeking jobs elsewhere and more providers facing payment cuts.

Another cut will likely come in 2017. The Obama administration is expected to finalize rates for the Medicare Advantage program — plans managed by private companies but using federal dollars — Monday afternoon.