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Capital Tonight: Health Care & Medicaid in Puerto Rico (Video)

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From the Morning Memo:

Democratic Assemblyman Richard Gottfried knocked the historic approach the federal government has taken toward Puerto Rico as well as its imbalanced Medicaid reimbursement rates for the commonwealth.

“They’re losing doctors, more and more of the people of Puerto Rico are now moving to the mainland and it’s a continuation of over a century of pretty crude colonialism,” he said, adding there may be “a bit of racism” in how the U.S. deals with issues facing the commonwealth government’s finances compared to other non-state territories.

Gottfried was part of the second New York delegation that traveled to the island earlier this month to help officials there with an ongoing debt and health-care crisis.

President Obama is pushing a debt-relief plan before a skeptical Congress, but New York officials are pointing to a longer-term concern: reimbursement rates for health-care programs they say are out of whack with the rest of the country.

New York health officials, including Gottfried, who chairs the Assembly Health Committee, are assisting Puerto Rico with putting together a Medicaid waiver application.

In the interview, Gottfried said the federal government will ultimately wind up spending more money in the long run if they don’t deal with these structural concerns now.

“I think that it is unconscionable that we discriminate against Puerto Rico the way we do,” Gottfried said. “If the economy and the health-care system of Puerto Rico continue to deteriorate, it’s going to cost the federal government a whole a lot more money than it would if they simply invest in the island.”