Trump personally stepped in to cut Medicaid spending on Puerto Rico in budget deal, new report says

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President Donald Trump waves as he arrives for a visit in Carolina, Puerto Rico, after Hurricane Maria hit the island. Joe Raedle/Getty Images
  • President Trump personally jumped in during budget negotiations to cut the amount of Medicaid funding for Puerto Rico, according to a Politico report.
  • Congressional negotiators unveiled a budget deal earlier this week allocating $US5.7 billion over two years to fund public health insurance on the island, instead of $US12 billion over four years.
  • But three sources told the outlet that Trump didn’t back the deal because he believed it was too much and wanted to reduce the total amount.
  • The island’s economy has been in recession for over a decade and its Medicaid program has faced drastic cuts,NPR reported.
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President Trump personally jumped in during budget negotiations to cut the amount of Medicaid funding for Puerto Rico, according to a Politico report.

Congressional negotiators unveiled an budget deal earlier this week allocating $US5.7 billion over two years to fund public health insurance on the island, instead of $US12 billion over four years. There had been a previous bipartisan agreement on the increased figures that would cover 1.4 low-income Puerto Ricans – almost half its population.

But three sources told the outlet that Trump didn’t back the deal because he believed it was too much and pushed to reduce the total amount. Lawmakers then revised the provision and whittled it down to two years with less money.

A White House spokesperson characterised the cut to Politico as “a win for President Trump and the American people” – even though Puerto Ricans are US citizens as well.

Trump has fixated on Puerto Rico throughout his presidency, calling it “one of the most corrupt places on Earth” and attacking officials there as “incompetent.”

The island has been mired in recession for over a decade and its Medicaid program has confronted drastic cuts as the Puerto Rican government sought ways to pay back its $US70 billion debt, NPR reported.

Puerto Rico’s dire financial situation worsened after Hurricane Maria struck in 2017, devastating large swaths of the island and prompting government officials to criticise Trump’s handling of the situation.

The federal government treats Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program differently because its considered a territory and not a state. It receives a fixed grant instead of open-ended federal funding, according to the Centre for Budget and Policy Priorities.

The spending package, though, would provide additional stability to the embattled program in the short-run, though negotiations for additional funding have to be jumpstarted again in three years.

During fiscal year 2019, Puerto Rico received $US367 million in its capped grant, leaving it to make up the shortfall when it was projected to spend $US2.8 billion.