Amid a Healthcare Crisis, Trump Cuts Medicaid Funding to Puerto Rico

Lead Photo: U.S. and Puerto Rico flags wave amid blue skies. Photo by TexPhoto/Getty Images
U.S. and Puerto Rico flags wave amid blue skies. Photo by TexPhoto/Getty Images
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President Donald Trump pushed to slash billions of dollars of Medicaid funding the federal government was doling out for Puerto Rico in its latest spending package, Politico reports.

On Monday, lawmakers unveiled a $1.4 trillion spending package. The plan allocates $5.7 billion in Medicaid funds to Puerto Rico during a two-year time frame. Before Trump intervened, the package, put together by Republican and Democratic leaders on the House Energy and Commerce Committee as well as the Senate Finance Committee, originally allotted $12 billion for a four-year time period.

The goal, The Hill reports, was to negotiate a long-term financial path for Puerto Rico. However, according to three sources familiar with the situation that Politico interviewed, the president said they were spending too much on Puerto Rico.

A White House spokesperson told the political news site that the Puerto Rico funding deal was a “win for President Trump and the American people.”

“This administration remains committed to properly prioritizing U.S. taxpayer dollars,” Chase Jennings, a spokesperson for the White House Office of Management and Budget, told Politico. “With the historical waste we have faced in Puerto Rico, additional funding was not needed or fiscally responsible.”

According to Jennifer Storipan, executive director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, the territory will “continue to work hand-in-hand with the federal government to achieve a longer-term funding mechanism that provides stable healthcare to the people of Puerto Rico.”

Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program covers more than 1 million low-income people on the Caribbean archipelago. Amid a healthcare crisis, many on the island have been in a panic as its program, which relies on short-term funding extensions, has its last funding installment expected to expire on Friday. Unlike U.S. states, where federal and state governments share costs without strict limits on overall spending, funding for territories is capped. In Puerto Rico, that has long left the program underfunded.

As the U.S. territory demands more funding, Congress and Trump have been pushing for stronger measures to monitor and stop “inappropriate” spending on the archipelago in the aftermath of a post-Hurricane María corruption scandal.

Trump, who was widely criticized by Puerto Ricans for his response to the devastating hurricane, has called Puerto Rico one of the “most corrupt places on earth” and ridiculed its politicians as “crooked” and “incompetent.”

The spending package passed the House on Tuesday and now heads to the Senate.