Puerto Rican Governor Warns of Influx to U.S., Likely Many to Chelsea

By Seth Daniel

The governor of Puerto Rico has drafted a letter to Gov. Charlie Baker warning that an approaching “cliff” in federal Medicaid funding on the island under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) could send thousands of migrants from Puerto Rico in the coming months, with likely many of them going to Chelsea.

Gov. Ricardo Rossello has called on Gov. Baker to advocate for the Congressional delegation to more adequately fund health care in Puerto Rico, especially with the ACA now being re-tooled in Congress. He said in a climate where the island’s government is already under extreme financial difficulties, the fallout from a mass migration to Massachusetts could be costly to both locales.

“If this issue isn not addressed by Congress in the very near future, the fallout will be felt not only in Puerto Rico, but also in the states, because the already high rate of migration of U.S. Citizens moving from Puerto Rico to the states will likely increase significantly, affecting Massachusetts in particular,” he wrote.

Statistics from Gov. Rossello showed that between 2006 and 2016, some 440,000 residents of Puerto Rico – who have full U.S. Citizenship – moved to the U.S. mainland. Between 2010 and 2015, some 25,000 new residents from Puerto Rico arrived in Massachusetts. Many of those new residents have shown up in Chelsea, particularly noted within the Chelsea Public Schools amidst the immigration of new students from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

The ¨Medicaid cliff¨ is a scenario caused by funding shortfalls built in to the unique healthcare funding mechanisms for Puerto Rico. If realized, tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans, all natural born citizens of the United States, will likely continue to relocate to Massachusetts to qualify for Medicaid, costing Massachusetts taxpayers $1.3 billion over the coming decade.

The letter to Gov. Baker estimated that in their projections, the state would have to come up with $2.6 billion to serve Puerto Ricans migrating to the state for Medicaid reasons. Of that, only $1.3 billion would come from the federal government. The rest would come from state taxpayers.

“If Congress allows this Medicaid ‘cliff’ to take effect, these numbers will only increase further as the rate of migration from the island to the states inevitably grows,” he wrote. “I’m reaching out to ask for your help in activating Massachusetts’s Congressional delegation as a voice of reason in Congress on this issue which is entirely avoidable. Moreover, Congress has a perfect opportunity to deal with this as it works to approve legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA).”

The Governor’s Office in Puerto Rico said it sent similar letters to the governors of Florida, Connecticut, Ohio, New Jersey, Georgia, New York, Texas, Pennsylvania, California, Illinois, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

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