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 SandersVolatile presidential polls spark new round of anxieties GOP memo deflects some gun questions to 'violence from the left' British Bookmaker: Warren has replaced Biden as Democratic primary favorite MORE (I-Vt.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisAre Democrats turning Trump-like? Volatile presidential polls spark new round of anxieties Conservative commentator rips Shapiro over criticism of people with multiple jobs MORE (D-Calif.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerThe Hill's Campaign Report: Battle for Senate begins to take shape Steve King to Gillibrand: Odds of me resigning same as yours of winning presidential nomination We need a climate plan for agriculture MORE (D-N.J.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenAre Democrats turning Trump-like? Manufacturing shrinks, raising questions for Trump Volatile presidential polls spark new round of anxieties MORE (D-Mass.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandSteve King to Gillibrand: Odds of me resigning same as yours of winning presidential nomination The Hill's Morning Report — Recession fears climb and markets dive — now what? King incites furor with abortion, rape and incest remarks MORE (D-N.Y.) all cosponsored The Territories Health Equity Act of 2019. They were joined by Sens. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleySenate Democrats push Trump to permanently shutter migrant detention facility Senate Dem seeks answers from DHS on reports of pregnant asylum seekers sent back to Mexico Schumer backs Pelosi as impeachment roils caucus MORE (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyOvernight Energy: Trump sparks new fight over endangered species protections | States sue over repeal of Obama power plant rules | Interior changes rules for ethics watchdogs To cash in on innovation, remove market barriers for advanced energy technologies Democrats, environmentalists blast Trump rollback of endangered species protections 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 TrumpTrump watching 'very closely' as Portland braces for dueling protests WaPo calls Trump admin 'another threat' to endangered species Are Democrats turning Trump-like? 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.