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Gov. Bryan Tells U.S. Senate How Recovery Efforts Are Going Since Hurricanes

WASHINGTON — 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, Governor 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. 

Governor Bryan, 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.

“Health care 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.

Senate Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said the government wants to ensure the money is being used wisely, but acknowledged the challenges the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are facing.

“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% federal funding—by one year and thereby allow the USVI’s Medicaid program to continue to operate through the end of FY 2020,” the governor added.

Bryan explained how the storms affected the territory’s infrastructure.

“Medicare law as it applies to the Virgin Islands is outdated, resulting in substantial reimbursement deficiencies and increasingly unsustainable financial damage to our publicly-owned hospitals and our Government.” he said. “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.”

Governor Bryan 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.

Governor Bryan returns to the territory today.

View Governor Bryan’s testimony here

Governor Albert Bryan, Jr. testifies before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on Capitol Hill Tuesday.

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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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