As Puerto Rico’s economic crisis continues, authorities in the U.S territory have warned that its medical system is on the brink of crisis, saying it is close to running out of Medicaid funds, while the island is heavily restricted in the budget from the federal government.
Puerto Rican officials including Governor Ricardo Rossello, the secretary of health and head of its health insurance administration are set to visit Congress Wednesday to address the impending crisis.
In a letter to Florida Governor Rick Scott last week urging congressional support, Rossello explained that Puerto Rico’s budget had been strained by thousands moving to the U.S. mainland, with around 128,000 who moved to Florida between 2010 and 2015.
“Our projections on the Medicaid expenditures Florida needed to serve this population (from 2011 to 2025) could exceed US$6 billion, with US$3.7 billion coming from the federal government and the remaining US$2.5 billion from your state funds,” Rossello wrote, warning that the U.S. will increasingly have also feel the consequences of Puerto Rico's crisis.
Rossello also sent letters to other state governors in California, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.
As part of the debt restructuring plan designed by the Obama-appointed financial oversight board — approved in Congress through the controversial PROMESA law — severe cuts will also be made to government agencies, pensions and education to help pay off Puerto Rico’s nearly US$73 billion debt.
On the anniversary of the abolition of slavery in Puerto Rico, concerned Puerto Ricans across the mainland of the U.S. organized protests in seven cities against the plan to restructure the territory’s debt through tight austerity.
“We are saying it's time to break the chains of economic injustice and unite Puerto Ricans on the island and across the U.S. in fight for a fair economy for all,” organization Vamos 4PR said in a statement.
Puerto Rico’s ability to deal with its debt crisis has been crippled by the fact that it is a colony of the United States, which bars the island from filing for bankruptcy. Nearly half of Puerto Rico’s population lives in poverty, while unemployment is nearly twice the average of the rate in U.S. states.