The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed a continuing resolution Thursday extending the deadline for 100 percent federal matching funds for millions of dollars in Medicaid spending by the Virgin Islands.
The new deadline of so-called Medicaid “fiscal cliff” is November 21st.
Passage of the measure means the territory will continue through November to be matched dollar-for-dollar for Medicaid spending.
Under previous rules, the rate of federal reimbursement was capped at 55 percent. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and the 2018 budget Act gave the Virgin Islands access to additional funding because territory is medically underserved and a significant number of people live below the poverty line. About 29,000 people are served by Medicaid in the territory.
“The bill contains critical Medicaid relief for us,” said Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett. She said Congressional action “ … will provide families, businesses, and communities with budget certainty while we negotiate long-term funding. Importantly, the legislation also extends a full waiver of any local matching funds for Medicaid in the Virgin Islands through Nov. 21.”
Government House had remained optimistic about the outcome of today’s vote in Washington. “The governor has been lobbying Congress to act to avert the Medicaid fiscal cliff since taking office in January,” said Richard Motta, spokesman for Gov. Albert Bryan Jr.
Mr. Motta said the governor is leaving this week to meet with members of the U.S. Senate and the Trump administration to discuss long-term Medicaid solutions.
According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation study, the 2017 hurricanes exacerbated the territories’ existing economic and health care challenges. Residents – and health care providers – fled the territory. Homes, schools, health care facilities, and other infrastructure were destroyed. “After the storms, the territories’ Medicaid programs have served as important resources for addressing residents’ health care needs, but they have operated under longstanding financing challenges,” the foundation study reported.
Virgin Islanders are Americans, Ms. Plaskett said. “ … federal law unfairly places Medicaid funding caps on the islands (unlike States, where funding is open-ended), and requires them to pay a much greater percentage of Medicaid than States of comparable income levels. … I welcome the momentary certainty the (continuing resolution) delivers, but we must keep working to reach a long-term, bipartisan agreement that provides affected patients and family’s real peace of mind.”