Frente por Puerto Rico concludes two days of meetings in the US capital
(September 8, 2017 - Washington, DC) Frente por Puerto Rico held two days of congressional meetings in the United States capital on September 5 and 6, led by Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA) staff.
The members of the Frente met with 40 offices in the United States House and Senate where they emphasized, among other issues, the importance of finding a sustainable and long-term solution to the serious problem of financing the Medicare and Medicaid programs in Puerto Rico.
Currently, due to the Island’s territorial situation, Puerto Rico only receives between $1.1 and $1.3 billion annually to pay for the Government's health plan. This means that the funds Puerto Rico receives are limited to this amount and are not proportional—as is the case with the states—to the medical needs of the population.
During these first rounds of lobbying, members of the Frente acknowledged the importance of the $296 million allocation through the budget omnibus for the Puerto Rico Medicare program during the current fiscal year. Nonetheless, they informed Congress members that this amount is insufficient to cover the costs of the Government's health plan, which requires at least $600 million more to complete the fiscal year.
"Our first request to the members of Congress is to eliminate the federal funding cap established by Obamacare, since it constitutes unfair and discriminatory treatment for the American citizens of Puerto Rico," said Carlos Mercader, director of PRFAA.
Congress will soon vote on the reauthorization of the children's medical program known as S-CHIP, a legislative vehicle that could provide an immediate solution to the problem of financing the Government's health plan.
"We are requesting, for the moment, to increase the cap that Puerto Rico receives in S-CHIP to the approximately $1.6 billion requested by the US Executive in its budget proposal for fiscal year 2018," explained Mercader.
"In the long term," continued the governor’s representative in Washington, "Congress needs to establish a new budget mechanism that will increase the cap permanently, using as a base, states with demographics similar to those of Puerto Rico."
"After these two days, full of work, I am satisfied that the Frente achieved its mission: to raise awareness in Washington regarding the fiscal cliff in health funds, in order to address the issue as soon as possible," concluded Mercader.
Members of Congress were informed that the Rosselló Administration is carrying out a transformation of the local health system, in order to achieve savings and have a more sustainable and effective system.
The Puerto Rico Department of Health is creating a new health model that guarantees the integrity of payments by establishing, among other mechanisms, a Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU).
The director of the Puerto Rico Health Insurance Administration (ASES, for its Spanish acronym), Angie Ávila; the legal director of ASES, Marla Hadad; the president of the Puerto Rico College of Surgeons, Dr. Víctor Ramos; the former governor of Puerto Rico, Dr. Pedro Rosselló; the president of the Association of Primary Doctors, Dr. José J. Vargas; the president of the College of Dentist Surgeons, Dr. Gilberto Ríos; and the president of the Association of Community Pharmacies, Vicmaris González were present at the meetings.
They met with the offices of senators Thad Cochran, Cory Booker, Bob Casey, Marco Rubio, Bill Cassidy, Claire McCaskill, Kamala Harris, Jeff Lucas, Michael Crapo, Michael Bennet, Brian Schatz, John Isakson, John Cornyn, Orrin Hatch, Martin Heinrich, and John Thune.
In the House of Representatives, they met with representatives Rob Bishop, Steve Scalise, Raúl Labrador, Adam Kinzinger, John Shimkus, Marsha Blackburn, Michael Doyle, Nydia Velázquez, Doris Matsui, Joyce Betty, José Serrano, Gus Bilirakis, Ben Lujan, Eliot Engel, Diane DeGette, John Shimkus, Leonard Lance, David Loebsack, Markwayne Mullin, Anna Eshoo, Sean Duffy, Billy Long, and Fred Upton.
The members of Frente por Puerto Rico did not use public funds to travel to Washington, nor did they receive or will receive any compensation from the Government for their work.
On behalf of PRFAA, the meetings were led by Carlos Mercader, executive director; George Laws-García, director of Government Affairs; joined by Josué Rivera, Diego Sánchez, and Justin Higgins, public policy advisors of the agency.
The Office of the Resident Commissioner, Jenniffer González, was represented by its legislative director, Greg Tosi, and the legislative assistant, Estefanía Rodríguez.
Governor of Puerto Rico Ricardo Rosselló convened Frente por Puerto Rico, which was joined by political, economic, social, and religious sectors of the US territory. The Frente identified those issues in which American citizens living in Puerto Rico agree to push for a unifying agenda without divisions.
The Frente has three subcommittees: Health, Federal Tax Reform, and Economic Development. Over the next few weeks, the subcommittees will be conducting an intense lobbying agenda in Congress, led by PRFAA.