Governor Testifies Before U.S. Senate Committee

Governor Bryan, left, converses with Chairwoman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Governor Ricardo Rossello of Puerto Rico.

Governor Albert Bryan Jr. gave an update on the state of the territory to the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources during the committee’s hearing to examine the state of U.S. Territories on Capitol Hill Tuesday.

In his testimony, Bryan thanked the Congress for its support to the U.S. Virgin Islands since hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 and provided the committee with an update on the ongoing hurricane recovery and rebuilding effort.

The governor, however, also highlighted long-standing disparities in federal support to the territory, particularly with Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements and asked the Congress to extend the period of disaster-related Medicaid relief to the U.S. Virgin Islands approved by the Congress in the Bipartisan Budget Act.

“Healthcare funding in the Virgin Islands was under great stress even before the two hurricanes. Under Medicaid, the arbitrarily low FMAP rate and the correspondingly high local matching requirement have imposed severe and unsustainable financial demands on the territory,” Bryan said.

“We urge Congress to extend the disaster-related Medicaid relief in the Bipartisan Budget Act —the local match waiver and the additional Medicaid allotment of 100 percent federal funding — by one year and thereby allow the USVI’s Medicaid program to continue to operate through the end of FY 2020,” he said.

Governor Bryan testifies before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on Capitol Hill Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019.

Bryan continued his testimony, adding, “Medicare law as it applies to the Virgin Islands is outdated, resulting in substantial reimbursement deficiencies and increasingly unsustainable financial damage to our publicly-owned hospitals and our government. In 2011, the hospitals each submitted to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services a request for assignment of a new base period to mitigate the reimbursement shortfalls, but CMS has yet to act on those requests.”

He also highlighted the need for Congress to implement other policy changes to allow for equitable federal resources to the territory, including increases to highway funding and tax policy changes to the Jobs Act of 2004.

Gov. Bryan will return to the territory Wednesday.