St. Croix--Senator Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly, Senate Vice President and Chairwoman of the Committee on Health, Hospitals, and Human Services, held a roundtable discussion on Monday morning, March 13, 2017 at the Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital and Medical Center to discuss the American Health Care Act (AHCA) and its potential impact on the territory’s health care system. If passed, the American Health Care Act would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Under the ACA, the territory benefited from an expansion in Medicaid services, allowing access to health care for uninsured pregnant women as well as childless adults. A repeal of the ACA would place the territory at risk of losing funding, thereby increasing the uninsured population and uncompensated care levels.
The Department of Health, Department of Human Services, leadership of the federally qualified health centers, the hospitals, and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), members of the Virgin Islands Legislature, and representatives from the Office of Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett were in attendance. Participation of these stakeholders provided the framework for initial discussions and allowed participants to share ideas to develop a plan of action.
In addition to addressing possible consequences of the repeal, also discussed was the Virgin Islands Health Care Reform Act sponsored by Senator Novelle E. Francis, Jr., and identifying a revenue stream to fund the local Medicaid match. According to Senator O’Reilly, “any decrease to existing federal funding is likely to create a ripple effect across the territory.” Part of the actions taken yesterday include the creation of a task force to collectively address the current concerns of local health care agencies impacted under the ACA, as well as the potential issues arising from the AHCA.
The task force will also coordinate efforts to lobby the federal government for an increase in the reimbursement rates to the local hospitals as well as to develop a short and long term strategic plan to address improvements to the territory's health care system.
The next meeting will be held on Monday, March 20, 2017 at 9:00 a.m. at the AARP office in Sunny Isle.