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Gov. Mapp Asks Health and Human Services Secretary For More Support For V.I. Health Care

Governor Kenneth Mapp (left) stands next to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma.

WASHINGTON — Governor Kenneth Mapp said that he and “his team” were back at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Thursday to continue “months-long negotiations” to advocate for U.S. Virgin Islands hospitals, which have been “underfunded for decades because of historically unfair and unrealistic federal policies.”

Currently, the Roy L. Schneider Medical Center and the Juan F. Luis Hospital are reimbursed under Medicare using outdated cost schedules from 1982 and 1996, respectively, resulting in each hospital being under-reimbursed by millions of dollars each year, Mapp said.

Some of the federal fee schedules for certain expensive procedures such as joint replacement and chemotherapy require major adjustment, the governor said. For example, Medicare patients may require expensive chemotherapy drugs that can cost up to $14,000 per treatment, but Medicare pays only a small fraction, leaving Virgin Islands hospitals to shoulder most of the costs. This has brought fiscal distress to the territory’s hospitals, with the local government left to cover these costs.

In previous visits to Washington, Governor Mapp convinced the Trump Administration and Congress to temporarily waive the local match for disaster-related Medicaid funding through 2019 as part of the Supplemental Disaster Bill passed in February. Now the governor has asked the new HHS Secretary Alex Azar and the head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Seema Verma, for further assistance with the territory’s Medicaid system. The Governor requested that HHS recommends that Congress provides the Virgin Islands an increased, state-like federal match rate for Medicaid funding and addresses the “fiscal cliff” by providing the territory with sufficient federal Medicaid funding in the future.

“HHS Secretary Azar and Administrator Verma were receptive to our reasonable requests to ensure proper healthcare funding for our poor and elderly,” said Governor Mapp. “As we rebuild state-of-the-art hospitals during our recovery, I want to make sure that our healthcare system becomes fiscally sound now and for future generations. I truly believe that Virgin Islanders are entitled to the same level of healthcare offered to Americans living across the continental United States. Our fiscal outlook and ability to offer expanded healthcare will greatly improve once we receive support comparable to what is provided to the 50 states.”

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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