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

Democratic White House hopefuls push to expand health care in US territories
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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 SandersTrump says he'll watch Democratic debate while en route to Japan 'because I have to' The Hill's Morning Report - Democratic debates: Miami nice or spice? 5 things to watch in the Democratic debates MORE (I-Vt.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisTrump says he'll watch Democratic debate while en route to Japan 'because I have to' The Hill's Morning Report - Democratic debates: Miami nice or spice? 5 things to watch in the Democratic debates MORE (D-Calif.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerTrump says he'll watch Democratic debate while en route to Japan 'because I have to' The Hill's Morning Report - Democratic debates: Miami nice or spice? 5 things to watch in the Democratic debates MORE (D-N.J.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenTrump says he'll watch Democratic debate while en route to Japan 'because I have to' The Hill's Morning Report - Democratic debates: Miami nice or spice? 5 things to watch in the Democratic debates MORE (D-Mass.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandGOP lays debate trap for 2020 Democrats Gambling website offers bets ahead of Democrats' first debate New York doctor says marijuana should 'absolutely' be taken off controlled substance list MORE (D-N.Y.) all cosponsored The Territories Health Equity Act of 2019. They were joined by Sens. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleySenate set to bypass Iran fight amid growing tensions Congress unlikely to reach deal on Trump border bill before break Chaos within the EPA exposes Americans to toxins like asbestos MORE (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyHillicon Valley: Investigation finds federal agencies failed to address cyber vulnerabilities | Officials crack down on illegal robocallers | Warren offers plan to secure elections | Senators grill Google exec on 'persuasive technology' YouTube critics urge FTC to crack down on handling of children's videos Senate set to bypass Iran fight amid growing tensions MORE (D-Mass.). Thirty-eight Democratic representatives introduced companion legislation in the House.

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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 TrumpTrump campaign buys full page ads in Miami newspapers ahead of Dem debates Trump administration's 'forced diplomacy' with Iran isn't working Roy Moore trails Republican field in Alabama 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.