Thursday, June 16th, 2016
By Dennis Rivera
Hillary Clinton’s June 10 op-ed called attention to the dramatic challenges both Florida and Puerto Rico will face as the Zika virus continues its spread. There is no question that Congress must fund research and prevention measures before any more mothers and children are affected. But as Puerto Rico’s entire health care system threatens to collapse, policymakers must weave any response to Zika into a broad, holistic suite of reforms for the commonwealth.
Puerto Rico’s looming disaster disproportionately affects the most vulnerable of the island’s 3.5 million American citizens. One doctor leaves Puerto Rico for the mainland United States every day. Yearlong waits to see medical specialists like neurologists and oncologists are commonplace. Just this month, Aeromed, the only air ambulance company active in Puerto Rico, announced that it has ceased operations.
Combined with Zika’s emergence, the cost of inaction in the face of these harsh realities is simply unacceptable. As Congress determines an appropriate response to today’s threat, our elected officials should look for ways to ensure the long-term stability of the island’s entire health care system. In a nation that proudly takes care of its own, we have an obligation to protect our fellow Americans from a humanitarian crisis.