WASHINGTON (FNN NEWS) – On Wednesday, the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce approved Congressman Darren Soto’s bipartisan legislation to provide equal access of federal resources for Medicaid to all American citizens living in the five U.S. territories: Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and Northern Mariana Islands. The Territories Health Care Improvement Act, included as part of H.R. 2328, now heads to the full House of Representatives for a vote, one step closer to becoming law.
Rep. Soto’s legislation prevents close to 1 million Puerto Ricans from losing health care coverage, by increasing the limit on Medicaid payments and the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage for all U.S. territories. It also sets stipulations to implement integrity and reporting measures for the programs.
“This legislation will save lives. We are encouraged by the bipartisan support the legislation received in Committee to grant every American citizen the equal access to Medicaid coverage they deserve,” stated Rep. Darren Soto. “Under the current archaic system, unequal access to federal resources puts a strain on the territories’ Medicaid programs, especially areas with ongoing health care crises exacerbated by hurricanes.”
“Our plan ensures families have continued access to health care while immediately relieving financial pressures on the territories. Following the news of rampant corruption of officials in Puerto Rico, we know that merely funding the Medicaid system in the territories is insufficient. That’s why we included stringent integrity measures to ensure the allocated funds reach our fellow citizens in need of medical assistance, instead of lining the pockets of corrupt officials,” Rep. Soto concluded.
“I commend Congressman Soto for his leadership on legislation to fix the federal funding shortfall for Medicaid in Puerto Rico and the U.S. territories,” stated Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ). “Congressman Soto’s bill will avert the looming Medicaid funding cliff, ensure residents have access to health care, and provide the certainty and sustainability that Puerto Rico and the territories deserve. I thank him for all his hard work and dedication to improving health care for people living in the insular areas.”
The legislation provides a path away from capped federal funds for Medicaid program to several years of increased allotments, totaling $12 billion for Puerto Rico, $762 million for Guam, $756 million for USVI, $504 million for American Samoa, and $360 million for Northern Marianas. It also implements important program integrity provisions, including a new asset verification system and payment error rate measurements, both already required for state Medicaid programs. All territories will also need to report annually to Congress on the expenditures of increased Medicaid funds.
The Territories Health Care Improvement Act creates a new funding structure increasing the matching rate Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP):
- Puerto Rico: 83 percent for the first two years of additional funds, and 76 percent for the final two years.
- Guam, American Samoa, and CNMI: 100 percent for two years, 83 percent for three years, and 76 percent for one year.
- U.S. Virgin Islands: 100 percent for one year, 83 percent for four years, and 75 percent for one year.
The bipartisan legislation was co-introduced by Rep. Darren Soto (FL-09), Rep. Gus Bilirakis (FL-12), Jenniffer González-Colón (R-Puerto Rico), and co-sponsored by: Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), Michael San Nicolas (D-Guam), Stacey Plaskett (D-U.S. Virgin Islands), Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (I-Islas Marianas), Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen (R-American Samoa), Jose Serrano (D-NY), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and Peter King (R-NY).
Click here or below to watch Rep. Soto’s remarks in the Energy and Commerce House Committee: