It has been nearly two months since Hurricanes Irma and Maria, but Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands continue to struggle with recovery. At the 2017 AMA Interim Meeting in Honolulu, the House of Delegates (HOD) directed the AMA to urge the U.S. Congress to pass legislation needed to ensure funding for Medicaid programs as the islands continue to recover.

Most people living in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands still lack power. They also lack sufficient health care resources to facilitate their complete recovery from the devastation of Hurricanes Maria and Irma. Physicians and other health professionals are struggling to maintain operations to provide appropriate medical care for the islands’ residents.

To help with disaster relief, the HOD directed the AMA to urge Congress to quickly pass legislation to “adequately fund” the islands’ Medicaid programs. To help restore access to health care services, the AMA also will encourage the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to implement temporary emergency regulatory Medicare and Medicaid funding waivers.

“Increased federal funding for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands’ Medicaid programs would provide support for the medical and public health needs of their residents and would help provide needed care and restore access to health care services,” said Russell W.H. Kridel, MD, a member of the AMA Board of Trustees.                                 

Reference-committee testimony was strongly supportive of HOD actions.

Many physician practices and health care facilities in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are still unable to access electricity and clean water. They also face shortages of critical and life-saving medicines, as well as medical devices. Federal funding for Medicaid programs in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands is vital for the local governments. It will help to prevent the worsening of medical and public health needs of residents.

The AMA Foundation’s Physician Disaster Recovery Fund was created to directly support physicians that are affected by natural disasters such as Hurricane Maria, Irma and Harvey.

The AMA Foundation enables the entirety of a donor’s gift to go directly to help physicians feeling the impact of Irma and Maria. Simply select a designation such as “physicians affected by Hurricane Maria” and contributions will be used to re-esta​blish the delivery of patient care in physician practices in federally designated disaster areas damaged by these disasters.  

Read more news coverage from the 2017 AMA Interim Meeting.

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