NEW YORK, June 17 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As lawmakers in Washington prepare to formally debate national health care reform, AARP has joined with top state and Puerto Rican officials today to pledge "Health Parity for Puerto Rico." The United States is home to some 8 million Puerto Ricans, with approximately four million on the mainland. Of this total, nearly 1,700,000, or more than 40 percent, reside in the New York, New Jersey, Connecticut tri-state area.
"One of the main goals of national health care reform is the equal access to quality care for all U.S. citizens wherever they happen to reside," said Carl McCall, AARP New York's Volunteer Economic Security Chair and former New York State Comptroller. "This goal cannot be achieved unless and until the four million U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico are treated equally under all federal health care programs," he continued.
To reinforce its support for health parity for Puerto Rico, AARP has launched an online grassroots campaign that provides citizens the opportunity to contact elected officials on the issue. The organization has created two websites that allow citizens to send emails directly to national leaders urging them to treat the four million U.S. citizens living in Puerto Rico equally in all federal health care programs. These new websites, www.HealthParityPR.org or www.ParidadParaPR.org, are part of AARP's ongoing efforts to advocate for comprehensive, national health care reform.
"If the goal is to use existing programs as building blocks for reform that includes all Americans, parity for Puerto Rico in Medicaid and Medicare is an essential first step," said Luis M. Balzac, Regional Director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration. "Trusted voices like AARP recognize this and are helping spread this critical message across the 50 states and to the United States Capitol," he finished.
Puerto Rico's health care system is strained because of federal health care funding limitations. Most pressing is the federal funding cap which restricts funding for the Island's Medicaid program to approximately $250 million per year, while the program spends approximately $1.7 billion on coverage. Puerto Rico is also subject to separate funding formulas in both the Medicare and children's health care, or SCHIP, programs. These limitations in federal health care investment in Puerto Rico affect the quality of care for all patients and place a financial strain on the government, individuals and families, employers and employees, and public and private providers.
President Obama has proposed health reform that builds on current federal programs including Medicare and Medicaid, while also creating new programs to enable all Americans to have access to health care. In the past, the President pledged to include Puerto Ricans in a reformed health system, as well as to treating Puerto Ricans equally in existing health programs, in some cases through phase-ins of benefits.
The Obama Administration included $634 billion as a "down payment" for comprehensive health care reform in its proposed budget. Since then, House and Senate leaders have been drafting reform legislation and are set to being debating proposals the week of June 21.
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