Democratic White House hopefuls push to expand health care in US territories

Democratic White House hopefuls push to expand health care in US territories
© Getty

Several Democratic senators running for the White House in 2020 introduced legislation Tuesday that would boost federal funding for Medicaid and Medicare in U.S. territories.

Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocratic senator will introduce bill mandating social distancing on flights after flying on packed flight Neil Young opposes use of his music at Trump Mt Rushmore event: 'I stand in solidarity with the Lakota Sioux' Democratic strategist Andrew Feldman says Biden is moving left MORE (I-Vt.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisSenators push foreign media to disclose if they are registered as foreign agents Warnock raises almost M in Georgia Senate race in second quarter Liberal veterans group urges Biden to name Duckworth VP MORE (D-Calif.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerSenators push foreign media to disclose if they are registered as foreign agents Joe Biden must release the results of his cognitive tests — voters need to know GOP senators debate replacing Columbus Day with Juneteenth as a federal holiday MORE (D-N.J.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden chips away at Trump's fundraising advantage Warnock raises almost M in Georgia Senate race in second quarter The Hill's Morning Report - Trump lays low as approval hits 18-month low MORE (D-Mass.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandDemocratic lawmakers call for expanding, enshrining LGBTQ rights The Hill's 12:30 Report: Fauci 'aspirationally hopeful' of a vaccine by winter The Hill's Morning Report - Officials crack down as COVID-19 cases soar MORE (D-N.Y.) all cosponsored The Territories Health Equity Act of 2019. They were joined by Sens. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyDemocratic senator will introduce bill mandating social distancing on flights after flying on packed flight Manchin draws line against repealing legislative filibuster The Hill's 12:30 Report: Supreme Court ruling marks big win for abortion rights groups MORE (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyGOP senators debate replacing Columbus Day with Juneteenth as a federal holiday The Hill's Campaign Report: Jacksonville mandates face coverings as GOP convention approaches Steyer endorses Markey in Massachusetts Senate primary MORE (D-Mass.). Thirty-eight Democratic representatives introduced companion legislation in the House.

ADVERTISEMENT

The bill’s goal is to equalize the funding for federal health care programs in the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands with those in U.S. states.

The legislation would eliminate the cap on annual federal Medicaid funding and increase the federal matching rate for the territories’ Medicaid expenditures. It would also increase funding for the territories to provide prescription drug coverage to low-income seniors and make available to the territories’ residents the same health care coverage that members of Congress can receive.

The senators said the legislation is necessary as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands still grapple with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which led to a slew of health issues on the islands and impeded access to hospitals. Temporary Medicaid funding for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands expires in September.

“It is unconscionable that in the wealthiest nation in the world we have allowed our fellow citizens to suffer for so long. The full resources of the United States must be brought to bear on this crisis, for as long as is necessary,” Sanders said in a statement. “We must go forward to ensure a strong health care system in all the territories and address inequities in federal law that have allowed the territories to fall behind in almost every measurable social and economic criteria.”

“Families in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and other territories deserve access to the same federal health care programs as families throughout the rest of the United States—no exceptions,” added Warren. “We are introducing the Territories Health Equity Act to end discriminatory double standards in the way Medicare and Medicaid are administered in the U.S. territories.”

The relationships between Washington and U.S. territories have been underlined after a feud between President TrumpDonald John Trump Trump responds to calls to tear down monuments with creation of 'National Garden' of statues Trump: Children are taught in school to 'hate their own country' Trump accuses those tearing down statues of wanting to 'overthrow the American Revolution' MORE and the government in San Juan nosedived, leading the White House to threaten to hold up a much-needed disaster bill over the level of funds allocated to Puerto Rico.