On Thursday, after members of the U.S. House of Representatives agreed to vote on a temporary extension of the Medicaid benefits to the U.S. Virgin Islands and other territories, Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. expressed his optimism for a favorable resolution to the Medicaid fiscal cliff confronting the territory, according to a press release issued Thursday by the Office of the Governor.
Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, in an agreement reached late Wednesday on a Continuing Resolution to fund the U.S. Government, agreed to include in the House version of the bill a temporary extension of Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentage (FMAP) benefits to the U.S.V.I. and other insular territories ahead of the Sept. 30 expiration of those benefits.
If passed, the continuing resolution will extend the temporary 100 percent Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentage to the U.S.V.I. to Nov. 21, giving the U.S. Congress an additional eight weeks to work on a long-term solution.
The governor, who has for months lobbied Congress on this issue, led a joint letter signed last week by the governors of each U.S. territory urging the U.S. Congress to extend the temporary Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentage granted to the U.S.V.I. and to provide the U.S. territories with the same need-based Medicaid funding that is currently available to the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Currently, the U.S. Virgin Islands receives temporary Medicaid funds from the Affordable Care Act and the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, both of which provide critical health care support to more than 28,000 residents enrolled in Medicaid in the U.S.V.I., but they are set to expire at the end of September 2019.
The U.S. Virgin Islands received a temporary 100 percent FMAP after hurricanes Irma and Maria severely disrupted the operations of the territory’s hospitals in September 2017.
Unlike in the states, where FMAP is not capped and the federal share varies based on the per capita income or residents of that state, federal funding for Medicaid in the territories is subject to a statutory cap and a fixed federal matching rate. As a result, the Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentage to the territory is capped at 55 percent.
Bryan and his administration have testified before Congress and White House officials numerous times since his administration took office in January to lobby for reforms to Medicaid that will keep in place hundreds of millions of dollars in funding to protect health coverage for thousands of V.I. residents.
The governor is scheduled to return to Washington D.C. next week to meet with members of the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives and the Department of Health and Human Services.