When presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton makes her scheduled stop in Puerto Rico Friday, she is set to attend a roundtable discussion on the U.S territory’s healthcare system, apparently in an attempt to appeal to the massive number of Puerto Ricans who have trouble getting the care they need, Al Jazeera America reported. The island’s struggling healthcare system is only one problem facing Puerto Rico, since the island has a massive debt load that Gov. Alejandro García Padilla has said is unpayable.
The island’s government has been borrowing to pay the bills to sustain Medicaid, which about half of Puerto Rico’s residents are on. The healthcare system's financial situation has caused thousands of Puerto Rican doctors to leave the island in search of something better.
The exodus of doctors, coupled with Puerto Rico’s growing population, is making healthcare wait times incredibly long. Some who can’t wait for doctors covered by their insurance have to visit other doctors, requiring them to pay full price for visits.
“I was trying to find a pediatric neurologist for my son, and I called my insurance. They only had one, and she was full until December. I called in May,” Astrid Perez, a Puerto Rican resident, told Al Jazeera America. “I had to go to another doctor, and I had to pay full price.”
The advocacy group known as the Puerto Rico Health Care Crisis Coalition has estimated that changes to reimbursement rates and healthcare programs are necessary for Puerto Rico and the healthcare system. If there is no fix, they say, the island could completely collapse. Healthcare in Puerto Rico makes up 20 percent of its economy, NBC News reported.
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) September 4, 2015
Both Clinton and Republican presidential hopeful Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., were scheduled to visit San Juan Friday, but of the two, only Clinton has expressed support for giving Puerto Rico the right to allow municipalities declare bankruptcy -- a right U.S. municipalities have — to help solve the island’s financial woes. Rubio has said he would not support such a measure, arguing that it wouldn’t help Puerto Rico’s problems.