WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee that sets national health policy, was joined by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) today in introducing legislation to help Puerto Rico’s seniors afford their prescription drugs. The Territories Medicare Prescription Drug Assistance Equity Act of 2019 would make Puerto Rico's Medicare beneficiaries eligible for the Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidy program. This program, also known as “Extra Help,” provides federal subsidies to help low-income seniors with their monthly premiums and other out-of-pocket prescription drug costs.

“Puerto Rico’s low-income seniors deserve the same access to life saving medications as any senior citizen on the mainland,” said Sen. Menendez. “This long overdue legislation would ensure that seniors are able to receive the health care they need and deserve, regardless of the state –or territory– they reside in by extending premium assistance and cost-sharing assistance for citizens in Puerto Rico."

“Today, Senator Menendez introduced legislation which would help low-income seniors in Puerto Rico by providing much-needed financial assistance to cover the costs of prescription drugs. If enacted, this legislation would help ensure that we meet the healthcare needs of thousands of low-income Medicare beneficiaries in Puerto Rico and do justice to our senior citizens,” said Puerto Rico Governor, Wanda Vázquez Garced. “My Administration’s commitment is to provide an equitable healthcare system for Puerto Rico and this legislation would provide seniors the necessary assistance to cover their prescriptions. I urge Congress to act on this piece of legislation.”

“Our bill would give Puerto Rico’s senior citizens equal access to critical healthcare subsidies and help lower out-of-pocket prescription drug costs,” said Sen. Blumenthal. As prescription drugs continue to skyrocket, older Americans living in Puerto Rico are forced to spend more on their medication than seniors in the rest of the U.S. because a key Medicare subsidy program doesn’t apply to them. This legislation is about basic fairness for Puerto Rico’s low-income seniors.”

“Right now, older adults in Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories don’t have the same benefits as older adults on the mainland United States, making it even harder for them to pay for their medication. This is unfair, and Congress should be doing everything it can to help all our older adults afford their prescription drugs,” said Sen. Gillibrand. “That’s why I am proud to introduce legislation that would make Medicare beneficiaries in Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories eligible for federal subsidies to help pay for their monthly premiums and other out-of-pocket prescription drug expenses. I will always fight to make sure older adults have the resources they need.”

“For too long, our fellow Americans who live in the U.S. territories have not had fair and equitable access to the same funding and programs as those living in the 50 states and D.C.,” said Sen. Booker. “By ensuring low-income Medicare beneficiaries in the territories have access to the same subsidies to help afford their prescription drugs as those in the rest of the country, this legislation will put an end to the unacceptable reality Puerto Rico’s seniors face every day.”

Currently, Medicare beneficiaries in Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories are ineligible for subsidies under the “Extra Help” federal program. Instead, each territory receives a fixed amount of federal grant funding to provide low-income Medicare beneficiaries with prescription drug assistance under the Enhanced Allotment Program. This unequal treatment results in far less assistance for low-income seniors living on the Island than seniors on the mainland who are eligible for Part D subsidies. Puerto Rican low-income Medicare beneficiaries who move to the mainland and register their new permanent address with the Social Security Administration, automatically become eligible to apply for “Extra Help” subsidies.

The full text of the bill can be downloaded here.