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Fighting Back

Fighting Back

One New York demands new revenue, less cuts

Despite some initial reservations, many AIDS and low-income health care organizations have agreed to join the One New York Coalition, a new group of more than 90 nonprofits advocating for New York’s poor in fighting the projected city and state budget cuts. These groups applauded the historic nature of the coalition, especially the fact that One New York is suggesting other revenue options.

The coalition held an action at City Hall on October 29, where they delivered a letter to the Mayor and City Council about the need for new revenues.

Leading health care advocates signed on after assurance that One New York wouldn’t undermine efforts to boost health care spending if New York State receives a second stimulus package from the federal government. Supporting a stimulus is a top goal of the coalition, and Paterson has also called for a second federal stimulus.

Any relief would probably include a temporary increase to the Medicaid Federal Medical Assistance Percentages. Under federal law, Medicaid is required to match a share of each state’s Medicaid spending, An FMAP increase in matching money could pump several billion dollars into health care for poor people in New York. However, advocates are worried that the state will use this money to fill up other budget holes.The One New York Coalition is not taking a position about where specific revenue should be allocated, a position that health care advocates in the coalition are comfortable with.

“I understand [One New York’s] position,” said Judy Wessler, director of the Commission on the Public’s Health System (CPHS). “As individual organizations we can get out there and talk about where these revenues need to go, but we can’t say that on behalf of the coalition.”

Despite different policy priorities—and worry about disparate political influence among stakeholders that were on the fence have decided to sign on to One New York. AIDS organizations signing on include Housing Works, Harlem United, HIV Law Project, Hispanic AIDS Forum, New York AIDS Coalition, Village Care of New York, New York City AIDS Housing Network, and Village Care of New York.

Even after signing on, some advocates are still skeptical. “In good faith and good will, we agreed to join at this point. It’s very much a wait and see attitude. I need to see a little more willingness to preserve health care. We all know the two biggest items in the state budget are Medicaid and school aid and I’ll put the care needs of frail and disabled poor people up against wealthy school districts any day,” said Matthew Lesieur, director of public policy for Village Care and the National Association of People With AIDS.

Health care losses

An increase in Medicaid funding is more important now than ever, because New York state will lose $450 million in federal funding if a new, controversial Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) regulation stands.

This regulation would cap federal matching funds for Medicaid reimbursement for hospital and community-based outpatient services at the Medicare rate and wouldn’t allow federal matching funds for some Medicaid outpatient services that Medicare doesn’t recognize, A bill (H.R. 7219) stalling this regulation was introduced in the House on September 29. A similar bill, The PATH Act (S.3656) was introduced in the Senate. The bills could be brought to the floor if there is a Lame Duck session, but insiders are unsure if Congressional leadership will make it a priority.

Posted on October 30, 2008 at 10:00 pm