It is well known that Puerto Rico faces health care challenges. There has been a shortage of doctors on the Island for years. Medicaid funding is capped — which is to say, there is a limited block grant of money which doesn’t expand to meet the needs of the people the way Medicaid funds do in the states. The population is growing older and the rates of chronic diseases are higher than in the states. Facilities don’t get the support they need and even basic equipment can be in short supply.
Many people leave Puerto Rico to live in a state specifically to meet the medical needs of their families. But the Weekly Journal has gone a step further with a new article that quantifies the consequences of Congress’s discrimination against Puerto Rico.
Is it discrimination?
The United States Congress has been accused of discrimination in Puerto Rico’s healthcare funding. Here are some of the inequities that support the claim:
- Puerto Rico’s Medicare Advantage benchmark is 43% below the U.S. average.
- Puerto Rico’s Medicare Advantage payments are 38% below the lowest state standard.
- The payments are 26% below the U.S. Virgin Islands, another territory.
- Since 2011, Puerto Rico’s payments have seen a 20% reduction, while the payments in the states have increased by 4%.
- Each U.S. citizen receives on average $13,000 per year in healthcare funding.
- Puerto Ricans only receive $4,000 per capita, $9,000 less than the national average.
- Puerto Rico should have received $29.9 billion more per year in healthcare funding than has actually been allocated.
This disparity in funding has created a healthcare crisis on the island, which has been compounded by recent natural disasters.
The impact of this funding disparity on Puerto Rico’s healthcare system cannot be overstated. It has led to a lack of resources for healthcare providers, which has resulted in longer wait times, reduced access to care, and decreased quality of care. In addition, many doctors and nurses have left the island in search of better-paying jobs elsewhere, further exacerbating the healthcare crisis.
The situation in Puerto Rico is particularly dire because the island has a higher prevalence of chronic diseases than the rest of the United States. This includes conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and asthma. These conditions require ongoing care, and the lack of funding for healthcare providers has made it difficult for patients to receive the care they need. As a result, many patients have experienced worsening health outcomes, which has further increased the burden on the healthcare system.
Systemic issues and a simple solution
The discrimination in Puerto Rico’s healthcare funding is a clear example of the systemic issues that continue to plague the island. It is essential that Congress addresses this issue and provides Puerto Rico with the funding it needs to provide quality healthcare to its citizens. This includes an increase in Medicare Advantage payments to Puerto Rico and a reassessment of the payment formula to ensure that it accurately reflects the unique challenges faced by the island.
While Congress and the White House have recently made efforts to improve the position of Puerto Rico health and human serves systems, temporary piecemeal improvements will not solve the problem. Without certainty about the future, Puerto Rico cannot make long-term plans for health care or negotiate favorable terms with vendors and healthcare professionals.
Fortunately, there is one simple way to create equality for Puerto Rico. As a state, Puerto Rico will be on an equal footing with all the other states. If you live in a state, please reach out to your senator and ask for action on Puerto Rico’s political status. Puerto Rico has no senators, so we must rely on people who live in the states.