Medicaid Cuts and Lack of Progress on Expanding Insurance Will Hurt Communities Across NY
January 8, 2020, New York, NY — On Wednesday, January 8, 2020, in response to Governor Cuomo’s State of the State address, healthcare providers, advocates, labor, and community members, including TAG, from the Save NY Public Health Campaign called out Governor Cuomo for recently announced Medicaid cuts. While the membership commends the Governor’s paid sick leave proposal, the membership is gravely concerned with many other aspects of the address. The Governor’s State of the State address included only a handful of health and health equity proposals, shifted the burden of Medicaid shares from the state to localities, and failed to present a progressive health care vision to expand health coverage to all New Yorkers, or a plan to establish equity in the distribution of health care funding for safety-net facilities, programs, and to reduce disparities in health outcomes.
Last year, Governor Cuomo angered and shocked community health groups by cutting $65 million in State Article 6 matching funds to vital NYC public health programs, many led and run by community-based organizations and hospital providers. These organizations and advocates responded by creating the Save NY Public Health Campaign, a growing coalition that continues to demand the full restoration of the City reimbursement rate. No other county in New York State received this unfair and discriminatory cut.
This year, with a projected $6 billion Medicaid shortfall, the Governor appears to be supporting across-the-board cuts to health programs that will have a statewide impact, disproportionately hurting communities of color, low-income families, and individuals who are disabled. The Governor’s State of the State speech, which did not mention these cuts, did not alleviate the fears of health care providers, unions, and community members across the State, putting the focus on the release of the Governor’s Executive Budget in the coming weeks for more details about his proposals. The Governor must work with advocates and policy makers who are doing more than just standing by with concerns but want to work together with government to address proposed budget gaps. Many proposals have been developed on how the state can generate revenue. The Governor can truly provide a progressive vision by not proposing cuts to vital safety-net program and services.
The Governor’s State of the State address also did not support the New York Health Act single payer bill or legislation to expand insurance coverage to all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status (S.3900/A.5974). Community health providers were deeply concerned that the Governor has again failed to propose a solution to the crisis felt by New Yorkers who are ineligible or cannot afford insurance or who are under-insured.
The health cuts in last year’s budget and those that are pending this year have alerted advocates that the difference between Governor Cuomo’s rhetoric and his proposals can be harmful to public health efforts, the Governor’s own initiatives such as Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic, the State Department of Health’s efforts through The Delivery System Incentive Payment (DSRIP) Medicaid Waiver Program, and the health and lives of New Yorkers across the State.
“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 great democracy is progressive when it includes the voices of the most disenfranchised and marginalized. A progressive health agenda in this year’s state budget must include 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.”
“While we anticipated the Governor would signal devastating cuts to community-based healthcare organizations, we are gravely disappointed that his speech attempted to paint a picture of unmatched progressivism while masking the impact these cuts will have on the most marginalized and vulnerable New Yorkers, who will be placed at further risk of losing crucial healthcare support,” said Reed Vreeland, Director of NYC Community Mobilization, Housing Works. “We were also surprised that, despite being a proponent of the initiative to end the AIDS epidemic in New York State by the end of this year, the Governor did not address how these cuts could potentially affect New Yorkers living with HIV and AIDS or at risk of transmission.”
“We are an organization that works with patients in underserved communities.” said Ronni Marks and Robert Desrouleaux of Hepatitis C Mentor and Support Group, in a written statement. “Cuts to Article 6 and Medicaid are a direct failure in supporting these communities. It worsens health disparities and increases inequities of healthcare and supportive services in New York City and New York State. The loss of this funding will result in the loss of lives.”
“The Academy of Medical & Public Health Services has been fortunate enough to receive Article 6 matching funds through the Immigrant Health Initiative over the past three years, said Mon Yuck Yu, Executive Vice President & Chief of Staff, Academy of Medical & Public Health Services. “This funding has been instrumental in allowing us to serve over 10,000 community members annually through our health screening services, mental health therapy, physical therapy, educational publications, literacy workshops, and community events. It has allowed us to hire Community Health Workers, Social Workers and Mental Health Therapists to address the urgent needs of immigrant New Yorkers, many who are still left outside of our healthcare system. Eliminating the funding not only means 25% of our community members will no longer have access to these services; it will also jeopardize services from our partners who provide critical reproductive health services, HIV screenings, preventative screenings and health education, causing the community members to spiral back into a state of vulnerability that has for so long been the status quo. We need our state to step up and support the work of nonprofits on the ground. Hospitals may be where the care begins, but it is in nonprofits where the care continues. Article 6 funding is imperative is ensuring the public health of our communities now and beyond.”
“Small community-based agencies meet people where they live,” said Georgianna Glose, Fort Greene Strategic Neighborhood Action Partnership. “The funding we received last year helped us reach and provide essential services to 1,833 needy residents of our neighborhood. They were able to access health care, food stamps, unemployment benefits and immigration services.”
“Governor Cuomo has yet again failed the health coverage needs of immigrant New Yorkers,” said Max Hadler, Director of Health Policy at the New York Immigration Coalition. “He falsely claims that ‘New York has delivered on the promise that health care is a right for all.’ This misrepresentation is an affront to the 400,000 New Yorkers who cannot access affordable health coverage because of their immigration status. The Governor could act by supporting the creation of a state-funded Essential Plan for undocumented adults (S.3900/A.5974). His refusal to do so is made worse by his claims of ‘mission accomplished’ when hundreds of thousands of immigrant New Yorkers continue to suffer from his inaction.”
“It is disheartening that NY State’s actions in regard to Article 6 and Medicaid cuts continue to marginalize our communities,” said Anita Gundanna, Co-Executive Director, Center for Asian American Children + Families (CACF). “Twenty-one percent of our Asian Pacific American (APA) community are considered underinsured and 40% rely on Medicaid in the City and the State. Coupled with high rates of limited English proficiency and a very high proportion of immigrants, APA communities across NY State have a critical need for community-based culturally competent and language accessible public health services – many that are supported by Article 6 funds. The APA community will be disproportionately affected by cutting funding to these critical services. The State has made promises to New Yorkers that we are moving forward, yet the lack of attention to public health is a profound step back.”
“Without any mention of hepatitis C in his speech, Governor Cuomo is undermining his own task force to eliminate hepatitis C by refusing to put his money where his mouth is,” said Mike Selick, Harm Reduction Coalition. “In order to end hep C in New York we need the government to invest more in this effort and to release the elimination plan blueprint that the task force finished months ago.”