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 SandersBiden touts 'progress' during 'candid' meetings on .5T plan Manchin: Biden told moderates to pitch price tag for reconciliation bill Biden employs flurry of meetings to unite warring factions MORE (I-Vt.), Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisHarris unveils 0M commitment to new global health fund Senate advances Biden consumer bureau pick after panel logjam House passes bill to compensate 'Havana syndrome' victims MORE (D-Calif.), Cory BookerCory BookerBiden employs flurry of meetings to unite warring factions Biden says he will review executive actions after police reform talks fail 11 senators urge House to pass .5T package before infrastructure bill MORE (D-N.J.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Warren11 senators urge House to pass .5T package before infrastructure bill Senate Democrats seeking information from SPACs, questioning 'misaligned incentives' UN secretary-general blasts space tourism MORE (D-Mass.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Gillibrand11 senators urge House to pass .5T package before infrastructure bill Hochul tells Facebook to 'clean up the act' on abortion misinformation after Texas law Democratic senators request probe into Amazon's treatment of pregnant employees MORE (D-N.Y.) all cosponsored The Territories Health Equity Act of 2019. They were joined by Sens. Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by the League of Conservation Voters — Senate Finance chair backs budget action on fossil fuel subsidies Top Democrat says he'll push to address fossil fuel tax breaks in spending bill Democrats revive filibuster fight over voting rights bill MORE (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyWarren, Bush offer bill to give HHS power to impose eviction moratorium Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Senate Democrats ding Biden energy proposal Six Democrats blast Energy Department's uranium reserve pitch 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 TrumpUkraine's president compares UN to 'a retired superhero' Collins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid Heller won't say if Biden won election 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.