Congresswoman Plaskett, a member of the House Ways & Means, Agriculture and Budget Committees released the following statement on final passage of the permanent increase in Medicaid funding for the Virgin Islands:
“Advocacy for equitable treatment for Virgin Islanders with regard to Medicaid has been years in the making. For decades, delegates to the territories and in particular, my predecessor, Donna Christian-Christensen, pushed provisions that expanded health care access and increased Medicaid coverage, yet the Virgin Islands and other U.S. territories continued to suffer from significant underfunding in healthcare.
“In the Virgin Islands, up until the storms of 2017, nearly 30% of our residents had no health insurance, which is a rate that is disproportionately higher than the national average of approximately 9%. As of 2021, 34,000 individuals in the Virgin Islands, over a third of our population, relied on Medicaid and CHIP. The Virgin Islands historically has been denied the Medicaid funding available in the 50 states; and the federal government covered just 55% of Medicaid costs to the Virgin Islands, which was temporarily expanded from the hurricanes of 2017 to 83%.
“After weeks of late nights and early mornings, the Democrat-led Congress successfully passed H.R.2617, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023— with permanent Medicaid funding that will benefit the Virgin Islands and other territories. I am pleased that through the hard work of my office, we were able to finally reach an agreement that would permanently extend the rate of federal funding for Medicaid in the Virgin Islands at 83 percent, the highest level of federal financial participation in Medicaid that any U.S. State may receive. While Puerto Rico has been given the 83% for the next 5 years, the Medicaid funding for the Virgin Islands and smaller territories will be permanently set at 83%, the highest percentage offered in the nation. Our prior Medicaid “cliffs” in the Virgin Islands (arbitrary dates where higher funding runs out) will now be a thing of the past, as we finally move toward equity in Medicaid for the territories. This law will create the certainty of continued access to health care coverage for tens of thousands of Virgin Islanders, a third of our population, indefinitely. Additionally, for the individuals that struggle with chronic illness but have no insurance, and use our hospitals as their primary healthcare providers, the hundreds of million dollars available to our territory through this increase will provide some relief for the unfunded liability that our main healthcare facilities have dealt with over the years.
“I and my team are elated that the years-long fight for equitable treatment for Medicaid is now over for the Virgin Islands and other U.S. territories. I thank my colleagues in the House and the Senate for their commitment to the good of all Americans, especially and including Virgin Islanders.