NEW YORK, NY—Politicians, celebrities and organizations at the Puerto Rican Day Parade today endorsed a campaign aimed to reverse recent federal government cuts to Medicare Advantage benefits in Puerto Rico.
Among the supporters who raised their voices at the annual New York City event were the Governor of Puerto Rico Alejandro García Padilla, NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, parade Marshall Rita Moreno, actress Roselyn Sanchez, Jane the Virgin actress Ivonne Coll, writer Mayra Santos Febres and LGBTQ activist Pedro Julio Serrano.
“Health care equality is not about politics, it’s not about status and it’s not about electoral posturing. It’s about bringing every Puerto Rican together —those who live here in the mainland and those who live on the island— to demand action and to provide a basic right on equal and fair terms for every single Boricua,” García Padilla said in a statement.
“We are united for healthcare and I support this movement. They are taking it away from us because we are a territory and a colony. I’m sorry, but that’s the truth. That’s why we don’t have rights,” Coll said in Spanish.
The movement organized by the Puerto Rican Health Crisis Coalition (PRHCC) has received over 50,000 signatures from an online petition. During the parade, hundreds engaged in social media under the hashtag #unidosporlasalud to demand immediate action.
On June 8, the government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) cut Medicare Advantage (MA) benefits in Puerto Rico by 11% for 2016. Meanwhile, the MA plans to increase by 3% the funding in the rest of the United States. Three and a half million Puerto Ricans on the island (U.S. citizens) pay into the same Social Security and Medicare plans as mainland residents. Yet, federal healthcare funding rates for the island are already half the rate of mainland states.
In a letter from CMS to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the federal organization indicated that a cut was made due to its own audit and data about how the Medicaid Advantage program is being used in Puerto Rico. CMS also told Sen. Schumer that the group would be willing to work with interested parties in looking at how the funding shortage can be rectified in the future. This past weekend, García Padilla announced via an email from this administration that a committee of experts was formed with the federal government to see how the cuts could be avoided in 2016.