Health Crisis Surges in Puerto Rico


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Zika virus.

A $73 billion debt crisis.

Puerto Rico has been in the news a lot lately, but what’s the truth about health in this unincorporated U.S. territory with a 99% Hispanic population?

Our friends at the Kaiser Family Foundation put together a fantastic 8-part Q&A about Puerto Rico, including several health indicators.

Here are some key takeaways:

People are older. The percentage of adults age 65 and older rose 22% from 2006-2014.

People have worse health overall. About 35% of adults in Puerto Rico report fair or poor general health, compared to 18% in the U.S. They also have higher HIV rates.

More people have health insurance. Less people are uninsured in Puerto Rico (6%) than in the U.S. (12%). But almost half are covered by Medicaid due to high poverty, and high unemployment.

Zika virus is a growing problem. “The first case of locally-acquired Zika virus in the [U.S.] was reported in Puerto Rico in December 2015, and the number of cases on the island have climbed to 903 as of May 25, 2016, and are expected to grow,” according to the report.

These health issues are compounded by a debt crisis.

“The debt crisis is making it more difficult for the island to respond to these issues,” according to the report. “Delayed payments by the government to Medicare and Medicaid managed care plans have caused a cascade of payment delays to medical providers and suppliers, and there have been reports of power and water shortages in hospitals, delays in the arrival of medical supplies, the laying off of hospital workers, and the closure of hospital floors and service areas. As the number of Zika cases mount, Puerto Rico’s health care system and economy is likely to face even greater challenges.”

(Photo via AP)

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