Three Democrats in the Florida delegation paired up with a Republican from Puerto Rico to bring out a bill expanding Medicare Part D to America’s territories.
U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala, D-Fla., who served as the secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) under President Bill Clinton, introduced the “Medicare Low-income Subsidy Expansion for Territories Act” last week. Cosponsors include U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla., and U.S. Rep. Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon, R-PR. The bill lets residents of the territories take part in Medicare Part D’s low-income subsidy (LIS) program starting in 2021.
“For generations, the residents of Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories have been treated like second-class citizens,” said Shalala as she and her colleagues showcased the proposal on Wednesday. “Though these territories face many inequities, poverty – particularly among seniors – may be their most daunting challenge to overcome. This bill is an important step in not only helping alleviate poverty among seniors in Puerto Rico and other territories with aging populations, it is also a meaningful stride towards better and more equitable treatment for American citizens who have for too long been ignored.”
“No senior should ever have to forego vital, life-saving healthcare just because of where they live,” said Soto, the first member of the Florida delegation of Puerto Rican ancestry. “At a time when Puerto Rico and the U.S. territories are still suffering from the long standing injustice of poverty, it’s more imperative than ever that we ensure our communities get the care they deserve.”
“This is a step forward for Puerto Rico and the rest of the U.S. territories that have suffered from unequal treatment in several Medicare programs,” said Gonzalez-Colon. “In the specific case of Puerto Rico, the current situation is critical for the elderly because of limited access to prescription drug assistance compared to the citizens of the rest of the states. H.R. 4666 would grant our duals the same right to access to Medicare Part D subsidies that other Americans enjoy. It is a step in correcting the discrimination in federal programs that our most vulnerable citizens suffer, for the only reason of wishing to remain in Puerto Rico. I want to thank my colleagues in Congress for supporting such an important piece of legislation that will improve the quality of life of the 3.2 million American citizens that live in Puerto Rico.”
“Puerto Rico and the other U.S. territories deserve to be treated fairly. I’m proud to support this bipartisan bill that ensures low-income seniors in Puerto Rico receive the same assistance as their fellow Americans in Florida and other states to help them better afford their prescription drugs,” said Murphy.
The bill expands the LIS program, which Soto’s office noted, “assists low-income individuals by providing subsidies to fully or partially cover their out-of-pocket costs under the Medicare Part D prescription drug program” and will “help reduce or completely cover the out of pocket cost of Medicare Part D premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance, while also eliminating the prescription drug coverage gap and waiving the penalty for late enrollment into Medicare Part D.”
The bill was sent to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means Committees last week. So far, there is no companion measure over in the U.S. Senate.