Menendez, Colleagues Introduce Bill to Help Puerto Rico’s Seniors

Menendez, Colleagues Introduce Bill to Help Puerto Rico’s Seniors

WASHINGTON, DC – Less than a day after Puerto Rico narrowly avoided defaulting on its outstanding debt obligation, Senator Menendez(D-NJ) joined Sens. Bill Nelson (D-FL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in introducing legislation today to help the island's low-income seniors afford the cost of their prescription drugs and help prevent the collapse of its health care system. The legislation, titled ‘‘Territories Medicare Prescription Drug Assistance Equity Act of 2015’’, would make Puerto Rico's Medicare beneficiaries eligible for the Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidy program and provide them with federal subsidies to help cover their monthly health care premiums and other out-of-pocket prescription drug costs.

“As US Citizens, Puerto Rico’s low-income seniors deserve the same access to life saving, life enhancing medications as seniors throughout the rest of the country,” said Menendez.  “I have been urging the Administration to make changes in Medicare to provide equality to Puerto Rico, and this legislation will make a positive step in continuing that advocacy and ensure that seniors across our nation are able to receive the health care they need."

Under current law, Medicare beneficiaries living in Puerto Rico or any other U.S. territory are excluded from participating in the Low Income Subsidy program.  Instead, Congress created a separate Medicaid allotment to help beneficiaries living in Puerto Rico that required the Puerto Rican government to match nearly half the cost of the subsidies provided.

But, as the island continues to struggle financially, officials there now say they simply can't afford to match the subsidies, leaving the island’s low-income seniors on their own to cover the full cost of any prescription drugs they may need.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, roughly 60 percent of the 730,000 Medicare beneficiaries living in Puerto Rico stand to benefit if this legislation becomes law.

As Chair of the Senate Democratic Hispanic Task Force and the only Latino Democrat in the Senate, Menendez has been at the forefront of the fight to help confront the financial crisis in Puerto. He has repeatedly pushed back on Republicans’ blame game, called for extending Chapter 9 bankruptcy protections to the island,  delineated bold steps the federal government must take, and introduced legislative proposals to provide equitable tax credit treatment for Puerto Rico. 

Click here for a PDF of the legislation.