Puerto Rico governor urges Azar to provide island with funding for Medicare program amid virus outbreak

Puerto Rico governor urges Azar to provide island with funding for Medicare program amid virus outbreak

Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced urged the federal government to boost funding for the Medicare Advantage program on the island as it battles the coronavirus outbreak. 

Garced sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma and her deputy Demetrios Kouzoukas asking them to find ways to increase funding for the program in Puerto Rico for fiscal 2021. The program serves more than 585,000 seniors in the territory.

“We urge Secretary Azar, Administrator Verma, and Deputy Administrator Kouzoukas to use this period prior to the release of the Final Call Letter to identify ways to make Puerto Rico’s Medicare Advantage Program more equitable. This would address in the short-term, several challenges of our healthcare system,” said Jennifer M. Storipan, the executive director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Commission.

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“I believe our most senior citizens must have access to much-needed quality healthcare. We must take action to ensure the welfare of our seniors,” she added.

Garced said changes were needed to help the island grapple with its unique circumstances — more than 40 percent of residents on the territory live below the poverty line, and the island has the highest participation of Medicare Advantage beneficiaries in the nation at about 75 percent. However, Garced said, beneficiaries in Puerto Rico do not receive the same subsidies as citizens in the rest of the United States.

The letter comes as Puerto Rico braces for further impacts from the coronavirus outbreak. Eight people are confirmed to have contracted the illness on the island.