Health in Puerto Rico

Many of Puerto Rico’s healthcare issues are a result of its status as an unincorporated territory.  Because the islands are a possession of the United States and not a permanent and full part of the country, the territory and its U.S. citizens can be treated differently from the States and their citizens by the federal government.

And different treatment can be counted on to be less than equal.  In fact, some of the worst discrimination against Puerto Rico is in Federal programs to ensure that all Americans have access to adequate and affordable healthcare.

Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans receive far less Federal assistance under Medicare, Medicaid, and the middle-class healthcare insurance program established by ‘Obamacare’ than if the islands were a State.

The treatment is so poor that doctors and other medical professionals are moving to the States in alarming numbers, recently at the rate of about one doctor a day.

Puerto Rico:

  • has just half as many emergency physicians, neurosurgeons, orthopedists and hand surgeons, plastic surgeons, and ear, nose, and throat specialists as the average in the States.
  • Patients can expect to wait as long as 13 hours to be seen in an emergency room.
  • EMReportCard.org, an organization that studies emergency services globally, says that Puerto Rico’s response to heart attacks has improved, with the number of people receiving care within 90 minutes increasing from 17% to 54% since the 2009 Report Card. In the States, however, 93.1% of patients get this level of care.
  • The Center for Disease Control reports that infections developed in health care facilities are significantly higher in number in Puerto Rico than the national average.
  • Puerto Rico has an HIV death rate higher than any State.
  • Residents of Puerto Rico are at higher than average risk for diabetes (+18.2%), hypertension, Alzheimer Disease, and osteoporosis compared with residents of States.

The incidence of lung cancer in Puerto Rico is low compared with the States, as are depression and psychosis.  Many metrics that are based on the quality of health care professionals are improving.

But Puerto Rico has less consistent electronic patient records than the States.  A major reason is that it also receives far less Federal funding for electronic records.

Puerto Rico belongs to the United States.  Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens.  The standard of health care in Puerto Rico should not be lower than in the States.

Let your legislators know that you care.

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