U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson files bill to help seniors in Puerto Rico with cost of prescription drugs

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-FL, has filed legislation to help an estimated 400,000 low-income seniors living in Puerto Rico afford the cost of their prescription drugs.

The measure, which Nelson filed just two weeks after Puerto Rico warned the U.S. of a looming health care crisis if it is unable to solve its current fiscal crisis, would make Puerto Rico’s low-income seniors eligible for the Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidy program, which provides federal subsidies to help seniors afford the cost of their prescription drugs.

While low-income seniors living in the continental U.S. may be eligible for the subsidy program, seniors living in a U.S. territory, such as Puerto Rico, are not.

“This is inherently unfair,” Nelson said. “This bill will help seniors living in Puerto better afford the cost of their prescription drugs by simply putting them on the same footing as seniors living in the states.”

Instead of making Puerto Rico’s seniors eligible for the existing program, Congress set up a smaller subsidy program in 2003 to help the island’s low-income seniors afford the cost of their drugs. That program, however, requires the Puerto Rican government to match nearly half the cost of any subsidies it provides. As the island continues to struggle financially, the Puerto Rican government has been unable to afford the cost of those subsidies, leaving many of the island’s seniors without much-needed financial assistance to help them afford the cost of their drugs.  

Nelson’s measure to expand the program will now head to the Senate Finance Committee for consideration.

The text of Nelson’s legislation is available here.