By Pamela Gentry, Senior Political Analyst
March 17, 2010 – As Democratic leaders in Congress work on rounding up the votes to get a health care bill passed, one Black lawmaker is working to make sure 4.5 million Americans in U.S. territories aren’t left out.
Del. Donna Christensen (D-Virgin Islands) is leading efforts to make sure the territories aren’t excluded in critical measure of a reform bill during negotiations. The president is aware of a list of concerns from advocates, but the priority to maintain a proposal without adding additional costs appears to be a sticking point.
So why has cost become the factor for this relatively small population?
According to the Pureto Rico Daily Sun, officials there have accused Obama of reneging on his word to phase out the cap on Medicaid funding and the inclusion of the territories in the insurance exchange designed to help the uninsured buy coverage with federal subsidies.
U.S. territories are home to 4.5 million U.S. citizens. Some of Christensen’s concerns are aliens living in the States and non-citizens would be eligible for federal subsidies under the exchange; something her constituents would be denied.
Citizens in the territories under the current version of the bill would also be left out of various consumer protections including: provisions limiting an insurance company’s ability to deny coverage based on a pre-existing condition, lifetime limits on coverage, and dropped coverage after an individual becomes sick.
As Congress works toward resolution, delegates for the territories are pressing for provisions in the bill just like those for the States. Christensen considers this a “moral obligation” and a request for “equality” for the men, women and children who live in the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Guam.
Do you think the U.S. territories are being treated fairly?