SAN JUAN – Thousands of people convened by medical associations demonstrated Thursday in the streets of San Juan to protest the unequal treatment the federal government gives to health care in Puerto Rico, a territory that receives a substantially smaller percentage of federal funding for public health plans than the rest of the United States.
The demonstrators were aiming to call the attention of Congress to the $3 billion reduction since 2011 in federal allocations to public health programs on the island.
Puerto Rican Health Secretary Ana Rius joined the procession that made its way through the main streets of Puerto Rico’s capital and said that the federal cutbacks will increase suffering in the island’s most disadvantaged sectors, especially among the elderly.
In Puerto Rico, more than 2 million people benefit from the federal public health programs – Medicare, Medicare Advantage and Medicaid – although they receive a smaller percentage of funds per patient than the rest of the continental United States.
Medicare provides medical care for people over age 65, Medicaid covers people who cannot pay for private health insurance, and Medicare Advantage is one of the programs offered within the Medicare system that subsidizes the purchase of private health insurance.
Among the demonstrators were people who benefit from Medicare and Medicaid, along with university students and union leaders, among many others.
The march started out from the vicinity of the Coliseum in San Juan, in the city’s Hato Rey district, and ended up at Hiram Bithorn stadium.
According to figures provided by medical organizations, the reduction in federal funding has resulted in the Puerto Rican government receiving about $420 for each person covered by Medicare, whereas the rest of the U.S. states receive about $1,200 per patient.