This week, the Medicare Rights Center signed onto a letter from the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations calling for a Congressional task force to improve Medicare and other health programs for residents of Puerto Rico. These suggested reforms would increase fairness and provide essential access to benefits. The suggestions include improving low income support programs, enhancing Medicaid funding, and providing for automatic enrollment for certain people eligible for Medicare as takes place for residents of the states.
Currently, for the 50 states and the District of Columbia (DC), federal Medicaid dollars are matched and grow as demand grows due to an increase in the number of people eligible. In Puerto Rico, federal Medicaid dollars are capped. The proposal would gradually change this so that federal Medicaid dollars operate in Puerto Rico in the same way they do in 50 states and DC. In exchange, Puerto Rico would increase benefits and improve eligibility.
Generally, federal Medicaid dollars do not go directly to beneficiary care, rather they benefit health care infrastructure and can help fuel economic growth. Similarly, in the 50 states and DC, some people, including those receiving Social Security payments are automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A and part B. This does not occur for Puerto Rico residents. As a result, a larger percentage of seniors in Puerto Rico pay late enrollment penalties and face gaps in coverage.