2020 Tactics: Democrats Introduce Healthcare Legislation for US Territories

US Territories

While the after effects of Hurricane Maria that devastated several US territories in 2017 are still visible, causing health issues and raising questions on the government policies, several Democratic hopefuls on Tuesday introduced a new legislation in order to boost the federal funding for Medicaid and Medicare in the country.  

Originated from a tropical wave, Hurricane Maria is considered as one of the worst natural disasters to have hit Dominica, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico in September 2017. The tenth-most intense Atlantic hurricane led to the destruction of islands and its vegetation, eradicating many lives. Puerto Rico suffered humanitarian crisis, while Dominica suffered wide communication blackout.

Lack of resources along with the inadequate and slow processing of the remediation services by relief groups to the affected US territories further made the situations difficult for the survivors. More fatalities and health issues across the affected islands raised a direct question on the aid services provided by the government.

Knowing that the citizens in the country have been expecting a more robust and efficient response from the US government, the Democrats have thereby brought up this issue as one of the major crisis in the wake of the upcoming presidential elections.

As a result, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) all cosponsored The Territories Health Equity Act of 2019, and were further joined by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.).

The aim is to provide equal funding for the healthcare programs in the disaster-affected US territories of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands. The bill would thereby focus on the Medicaid expenditures by increasing funding for the territories to provide prescribed drugs to even the lowest-income seniors on time.

Recalling the incident and disappointing role of the government in diminishing the crisis, Sen. Bernie Sanders said, “It is unconscionable that in the wealthiest nation in the world we have allowed our fellow citizens to suffer for so long. The full resources of the United States must be brought to bear on this crisis, for as long as is necessary.”

“We must go forward to ensure a strong health care system in all the territories and address inequities in federal laws that have allowed the territories to fall behind in almost every measurable social and economic criterion,” Sanders added.

Democratic hopeful Elizabeth Warren, while criticizing the government, said “Families in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and other territories deserve access to the same federal health care programs as families throughout the rest of the United States—no exceptions.”

“We are introducing the Territories Health Equity Act to end discriminatory double standards in the way Medicare and Medicaid are administered in the U.S. territories.”


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