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AARP and Puerto Rico's Secretary of Health Call for Fair Treatment in Health Reform for 4.4 Million Americans Living in U.S. Territories

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 2, 2009

CONTACT
AARP Media Relations, 202-434-2560, media@aarp.org

Sarah Echols, Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration
(202) 778-0731

AARP AND PUERTO RICO’S SECRETARY OF HEALTH CALL FOR FAIR TREATMENT IN HEALTH REFORM FOR 4.4 MILLION AMERICANS LIVING IN U.S. TERRITORIES


WASHINGTON – Highlighting the significant differences between the House and Senate versions of health reform legislation, AARP and Puerto Rico’s Secretary of Health, Dr. Lorenzo González, today called upon Congress to ensure the final health care reform legislation provides fair treatment for the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico and the other U.S. territories.

Secretary González met with AARP Board member Dr. Cora L. Christian, who is from the U.S. Virgin Islands, AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond and Senior Vice President David Sloane to discuss federal funding for Puerto Rico and the other territories under the Medicaid, Medicare and CHIP programs, as well as efforts to include the territories in the proposed health insurance exchange.

“The inequalities that have plagued the more than four million Americans in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and other U.S. territories will continue unless all U.S. territories are brought into the health care system on equal footing with the states,” said LeaMond. Additionally, AARP noted that Medicaid support in the states approximates $330 per participant per month compared to $20 per participant in Puerto Rico.

Secretary González said the U.S. House-passed bill included key provisions supporting Puerto Rico in federal health programs, including $3.7 billion over seven years for Puerto Rico's participation in the new national insurance exchange program, $9.1 billion in Medicaid funds over the next nine years, and language stipulating that by 2013, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services must submit to Congress a report outlining the path to full parity in Medicaid by 2020.
In contrast, Secretary González said, the Senate bill does not include Puerto Rico and the other territories in the health insurance exchange, and does not sufficiently address the federal funding limitations facing Puerto Rico and the other territories under Medicaid. In addition, like the House bill, the Senate bill does not address the unequal treatment of Island seniors under Medicare.
Secretary González said he is hopeful that as the reform legislation is considered by the Senate, and later in discussions between the House and Senate, that these issues will be addressed.

“While the debate continues on the policies and scope of health care reform, one point on which we should all be able to agree is that every citizen, no matter where they live, should have access to the federal health care programs Congress puts in place. If the national goal is equal access to quality health care, then the American citizens of Puerto Rico must be included,” said Secretary González.

Secretary González said the government of Puerto Rico would continue working with congressional leaders and the White House toward achieving President Obama’s pledges of: Puerto Rico’s participation in the health insurance exchange; phasing-out of the caps on federal contributions to Medicaid in the territories; and phasing-in equal treatment of Puerto Rico in Medicare.

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to either political campaigns or candidates. We produce AARP The Magazine, the definitive voice for 50+ Americans and the world's largest-circulation magazine with over 35.5 million readers; AARP Bulletin, the go-to news source for AARP's nearly 40 million members and Americans 50+; AARP Segunda Juventud, the only bilingual U.S. publication dedicated exclusively to the 50+ Hispanic community; and our website, AARP.org. AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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