FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Reed Vreeland, Housing Works, 917-573-6328, firstname.lastname@example.org
Anthony Feliciano, Commission on the Public’s Health System, 646-325-5317, email@example.com
Katie Robbins, Campaign for New York Health, 917-657-4663, firstname.lastname@example.org
Yatziri Tovar, Make the Road New York, 917-771-2818, email@example.com
Rush Perez, New York Immigration Coalition, 415-608-6445, firstname.lastname@example.org
ALBANY, NY — On Tuesday, community-based organizations, health care providers, people covered by Medicaid, and people with disabilities held a press conference outside of the first meeting of the Medicaid Redesign Team II, which Governor Cuomo appointed to recommend $2.5 billion in reoccurring Medicaid cuts by April 1st. Participants criticized the role of the Governor’s new and opaque MRT II Panel, the proposal to shift $1.5 billion in Medicaid costs to NYC and the counties and last year’s $65 million reduction in Article 6 public health matching funding, and the $150 million in cuts to Consumer Directed Personal Assistance (CDPA) that has devastated seniors and the disabled, who rely on the program to live in the community. Health advocates will urge the Governor and Legislature to mandate equity in funding distribution of the Indigent Care Pool for safety-net hospitals, and enact legislation to expand health care and coverage through a state-funded Essential Plan and the NY Health Act.
The Governor’s health care proposals have alarmed community health groups, advocates, and people with disabilities who fear that the Medicaid and Article 6 cuts and lack of coverage expansion will harm low-income, immigrant and communities of color, people with disabilities, and other marginalized communities, reducing or eliminating their access to life-saving medical and social services. These cuts will force additional community-based health care facilities to close, especially in low-income, immigrant and communities of color. Advocates reject these proposals from the Governor and call on the State Senate and Assembly to take a bolder direction, including proactive proposals to expand health coverage, eliminate last year's cuts, and address the State’s overdose crisis.
The new Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT II) panel announced by the Governor is disproportionately composed of representatives of major hospital systems and includes only one consumer advocate, with no representatives of community-based health centers. Advocates are demanding that the Legislature be able to debate, review and vote on the MRT II recommendations individually—whereas the Governor’s proposal sets the deadline of the MRT II report on April 1st, the same day as the State budget deadline, meaning that the Governor is attempting to force the legislature to vote on the MRT II proposals sight unseen. Advocates are also insisting on a higher Medicaid Global Cap to be funded through a Billionaire’s tax or pied a terre tax or other proposals to tax the ultra-rich, and are standing against any shifting of Medicaid costs to New York City.
Last year, Governor Cuomo previewed his attack on the NYC public health system by pushing through a 16% reduction in the State Article 6 matching funds for crucial public health activities, which amounted to a $65 million in City HIV, STI, maternal health, Tuberculosis, viral hepatitis, cancer, and immigrant health services. Advocates are demanding that the previous rate is restored. This year the Governor’s attack on NYC public health is even more aggressive. On Monday, February 10th, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson testified that the Executive Budget proposal will shift $1.1 billion in Medicaid costs to NYC and Health + Hospitals. Earlier in the day, advocates met with State Legislators to demand that they wake up to the Governor's assault on NYC public health.
Advocates also oppose restrictions on the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program (CDPAP). The proposed rulemaking creates a tiered reimbursement rate for agencies that pay personal aides who provide the home-based support services for the elderly and disabled. When it was imposed last year, before a court temporarily blocked it, the impact on those who rely on the program, for both services and a paycheck, was devastating, reducing to unsustainable levels. This not only means reduction in wages for the aides, it wreaks havoc on the services people receive and ultimately increases costs to the state.
Instead of attacking NYC and local public health efforts, speakers at the press conference demanded that Governor Cuomo and the Legislature identify and recommend revenue enhancements, including new taxes or levies to support the Medicaid system and expand health coverage through a state-funded Essential Plan for undocumented adults (A5974/S3900) and the New York Health Act (A5248/S3577) in 2020. The NY Health Act bill will start the multi-year process of establishing a universal, single-payer healthcare program, and advocates put forward an agenda that covers steps to increase coverage and affordability during the transition. The priority step must be a coverage mechanism for many of the 400,000 adults left entirely out of coverage because of their immigration status.
"We are ready for a bold agenda on healthcare that can finally guarantee high quality care to every worker and resident. Instead, we are met with false narratives of austerity in Albany, and an unwillingness to find the resources in this wealthy state to make healthcare a right for everyone. This is unacceptable," said Katie Robbins, Director, Campaign for New York Health.
“The Governor’s state of the state address falls short on a real call for a series of bold and smart investments in broadening health access and quality for all New Yorkers, especially low-income, immigrant, individuals and families of color, people with disabilities, and other vulnerable communities," said Anthony Feliciano, Director for the Commission on the Public's Health System. “Cuts to Medicaid will be devastating to all New Yorkers across the State. A progressive health agenda includes restoration of Article 6 funds to NYC, changes to how Indigent Care Pool is distributed, and making it possible for community based organizations and the communities they serve to be key decision-makers in health and finance decisions that have been made mostly for us instead of with us."
"We are extremely disappointed with the lack of health insurance coverage expansion proposals included in the state budget as well as the potential cuts to Medicaid,” said Becca Telzak, Director of Health Programs at Make the Road New York. “Low income immigrant communities continue to be left out of coverage options at the state level, and are often among the first to feel the impact of Medicaid cuts. The MRT 2.0 is not the solution, especially since there are no community-based organization representatives on the committee.”
“Governor Cuomo is not to be trusted regarding this non-transparent MRT process. The truth is that the Administration has been cooking up the proposals the MRT will ostensibly come up with, meeting for months in Robert Mujica’s office. The MRT itself is loaded with self-interested insiders who will do the Governor’s bidding as long as their ox isn’t gored. And the Legislature has been completely shut out of the process, being asked to approve the results sight unseen or face massive across the board cuts. This is not how you improve healthcare for New Yorkers. And it is undemocratic at its core,” said Charles King, CEO of Housing Works.
"At a time when New Yorkers need improved access to care, New York State is engaging in an opaque process intended to starve Medicaid with virtually no community input," said Max Hadler, Director of Health Policy at the New York Immigration Coalition. "Now is the time for Coverage4All regardless of immigration status, starting with a state-funded Essential Plan for undocumented adults."
“It is incumbent on state officials to remember the intent of the Medicaid program: to provide coverage and access to services to the New Yorkers who rely on it every day. New York’s Medicaid program is comprehensive and robust for all the right reasons. We need a realistic budget that supports our Medicaid program, including revenue options and not cuts,” said Lara Kassel, Coalition Coordinator of Medicaid Matters.
“New York has always supported a strong Medicaid program that currently covers nearly a third of our residents, and that is to our credit,” said Mark Hannay, Director of Metro New York Health Care for All. “Rather than cut $4 billion out of it, we should be supporting and growing it, and if that means raising new revenues, then that’s what the Governor and Legislature should be doing. There’s plenty of ways to do that without turning to everyday taxpayers, and instead they should asking the ultra-rich who’ve benefited from decades of unwarranted tax cuts at both the federal and state level to pay their fair share.”