Delegate Donna M. Christensen sharply criticized a Congressional effort to repeal Medicaid monies gained by the U.S. Virgin Islands and other offshore territories through the 2010 Affordable Care Act, during opening remarks at House Energy and Commerce Committee hearings Tuesday.
“It is difficult to put into words how disappointed I am that we are considering legislation that would repeal a provision that mitigated, but by no means ended, the unequal treatment that Americans in the five U.S. territories have long received under Medicaid,” Christensen said in a statement from her office. “It would cut federal funding by 65 percent over the next decade, dealing the territories a crippling blow.”
Christensen told the committee she will offer an amendment Wednesday to restore the funding, appealing to her congressional colleagues’ "sense of fairness" in urging them to support it.
“To be clear, this historic and long overdue provision did not come anywhere close to providing the territories with equal treatment, but we have already been using this new funding to increase the number of low-income individuals in Medicaid and to provide beneficiaries with added essential health services – much that was not possible before,” she said.
“And yet in this bill the majority proposes to repeal every penny in new Medicaid funding for the territories and to return us to a prior status quo that no reasonable observer could believe was fair and that every reasonable observer recognized as discriminatory.”
She wrote, “We can only assume that this cut was proposed because the territories are viewed as an easy target, since we lack voting representation in this chamber and have no representation in the Senate.”
Pointing out that U.S. Virgin Islanders serve in disproportionate numbers in the U.S. armed forces, some losing their lives in defense of their nation, Christensen said the bill in Congress sends a terrible message, "namely that they are “American enough” to defend our country in combat, but somehow not “American enough” to receive a modicum of fair treatment under a critical federal health program,” Christensen said.