GOP bill would direct extra Medicaid funds to Puerto Rico

GOP bill would direct extra Medicaid funds to Puerto Rico
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Puerto Rico would receive an extra $1 billion for its Medicaid program under Republican legislation to extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for another five years.

The legislation is the first Republican request to direct extra Medicaid money to Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria. The island is still trying to deal with the severe damage it received from the storm.

The legislation from the House Energy and Commerce Committee mirrors a bipartisan proposal in the Senate Finance Committee, but it also includes some potentially controversial offsets.

For example, the House bill would repeal ObamaCare's public health prevention fund and raise Medicare rates for wealthy seniors.

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No Democrats have signed on to the bill ahead of a markup on Wednesday.

The committee's ranking member Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) said in a statement the parties are still working toward a bipartisan agreement.

"While bipartisan negotiations have been ongoing, the legislation offered last night by Chairman [Greg] Walden [R-Ore.] is not a bipartisan agreement," Pallone said.

Democrats in Congress have demanded a Puerto Rico aid package, but the Trump administration has yet to propose one. President Trump is scheduled to visit the island Tuesday, and has defended the federal government’s slow response to the storm.  

Puerto Rico already faces a Medicaid funding cliff, because $6.5 billion in one-time funds from ObamaCare ran out at the end of the fiscal year.

Medicaid funding for Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories is capped, meaning they receive less money than the rest of the country.

A GOP aide said the $1 billion in the legislation is related to the funding cliff.

The money would be provided to Puerto Rico over two years, and is part of a larger committee package to reauthorize CHIP, community health centers and other expiring health-care programs.

Congress missed a Sept. 30 deadline to extend funding for those programs. Some states have some money left to carry over until Congress acts, but three states and the District of Columbia will run out by the end of the year.

The Senate Finance Committee will also have a markup on their bill Wednesday, but so far the committee has yet to release details about how it would pay for a CHIP extension.