New Yorkers Still Struggle to Afford Healthcare

If you tuned in to Governor Cuomo’s State of the State address today, you heard him say that he will eliminate premiums for 400,000 New Yorkers! HCFANY applauds this proposal which will eliminate the $20 monthly premium for some Essential Plan enrollees with incomes up to $25,500 per year. Currently, people with household incomes at 150-200% FPL ($25,520 for a single person or $52,400 for a household of four) pay a $20 monthly premium for Essential Plan coverage.

While a $20 premium may seem relatively affordable, it results in nearly 100,000 New Yorkers per year losing coverage for failing to pay. This proposal, which is mostly federally funded, can be implemented without a huge price tag for New York’s tax payers. 

The legislature should move quickly to adopt Governor Cuomo’s proposal to ensure nearly all low-income New Yorkers can access premium-free coverage. Now let’s just try to do the same for immigrant New Yorkers who remain ineligible. 

While Governor Cuomo has been a strong leader in battling COVID-19, his administration still wants to move forward with $2.5 billion in cuts to the Medicaid program. These cuts will harm 6.3 million New Yorkers who need Medicaid for their health care, including children, individuals with disabilities, and seniors.

We are also particularly concerned with his administration’s efforts to change federal disaster relief legislation to obtain the authority to enact these cuts. The damage, should the administration succeed, would extend far beyond New York. 

So we need your help – take action to #ProtectMedicaid today! Here’s how:

1. E-mail your State Senator and Assemblymember’s Albany Office. Your Senator’s e-mail address can be found here, and your Assemblymember’s e-mail address can be found here. (Not sure who represents you? Look up your Senator here and your Assemblymember here!). In your e-mail, say something like: 

  • “I am your constituent and I need you to protect Medicaid. We should not cut Medicaid during a public health crisis. Instead of cutting Medicaid we could raise revenues from the ultra-rich. Please consider supporting both things publicly – and please speak to your leadership in the Senate/Assembly and tell them that your constituents are demanding to protect Medicaid and raise revenue.” Add your own stories about why Medicaid is important! 

2. Call Senators Schumer and Gillibrand. Say something like “As your constituent, I want to thank you for providing additional Medicaid funding to New York. We need to keep Medicaid strong during this crisis and prevent states from cutting Medicaid.”

3. Tweet @ Legislative Leaders using the hashtags #NoMedicaidCuts and #ProtectMedicaid

Sample Tweet:   In the face of the #COVID-19 pandemic, New Yorkers need Medicaid now more than ever.  We must #ProtectMedicaid at all costs and urge #NoMedicaidCuts – the lives of New Yorkers are on the line. @CarlHeastie @AndreaSCousins #NoMedicaidCuts #ProtectMedicaid

Sample Tweet:  ATTN: @CarlHeastie @AndreaSCousins Please urge @NYGovCuomo to accept $6.7 billion in federal emergency Medicaid funding and to abandon Medicaid cuts at this critical time! We must preserve the Medicaid Maintenance of Effort to #ProtectMedicaid

Sample Tweet: 6.3 million of New York’s children, seniors, individuals with disabilities and low-income families rely on Medicaid to meet their fundamental healthcare needs. Now – more than ever – we must #ProtectMedicaid to fight #COVID19 and say #NoMedicaidCuts. @CarlHeastie @AndreaSCousins

Thank you for taking action!  During this unprecedented time, ALL New Yorkers need Medicaid’s protections more than ever. Stay healthy and stay strong! 

Health Care for All New York (HCFANY) is a statewide coalition of over 170 consumer-focused organizations dedicated to achieving quality, affordable health coverage for all New Yorkers, and ensuring that the concerns of real New Yorkers are heard and reflected in policy conversations.

HCFANY commends Governor Cuomo for including three important health care initiatives in the 2020 State of the State. The first measure would help address the ever-escalating costs of prescription drugs by: capping monthly co-payments at $100 per month for insured patients who have diabetes; increasing public accountability and government enforcement of out-of-control prescription drug price hikes; and the establishment of a commission to explore the importation of lower cost drugs from Canada. The second measure is to establish a consumer-friendly health care transparency website where patients can compare health care costs and quality. The third measure would cut the statute of limitations for providers to sue their patients from six to three years and improve the state’s Surprise Bill law. HCFANY applauds the Governor’s steps to call attention to these issues and looks forward to reviewing these proposals.

HCFANY is disappointed, however, that the Administration did not take this important moment to address health care costs and affordability more squarely and urges it to do so in the upcoming Budget. Specifically, HCFANY urges Governor Cuomo to follow California’s lead and address the need to provide health coverage for our immigrant residents, who face increasing attacks at the federal level (S.3900/A.5974).  In addition, HFCANY urges the Governor to make health care more affordable through the New York State of Health Marketplace by establishing a state premium assistance program.  Finally, HCFANY asks the Governor to protect patients from medical debt by adopting proposals in the Patient Medical Debt Protection Act (S.6757/A.8639) including: simplifying medical billing, curbing hospital collection abuses, closing the misinformation loophole in our Surprise Bill law, and simplifying the State Hospital Financial Assistance Law. 

These measures are needed now more than ever because of immigration and affordability barriers to healthcare as well as spiking insurance premiums, deductibles and co-pays.  More than a third of New Yorkers are dealing with serious financial repercussions because of medical bills, including racking up credit card debt, using up their savings, or being put into collections. A third of consumers report paying medical bills they did not owe because they did not know how to fight them.  New Yorkers deserve coverage expansions and medical debt protections and this is the Legislative Session to achieve them.

A new survey found that most New Yorkers still struggle to afford healthcare and are worried about affording care in the future. This probably isn’t news to many of us – but the findings make the state budget’s lack of action on health care even more glaring.

New York has traditionally been a healthcare leader, and we have one of the lowest uninsured rates in the country. But insurance isn’t enough. Many of the survey questions were asked of insured New Yorkers. They are having trouble managing the costs of their premiums, co-pays and deductibles.

The survey shows the toll this takes – almost half of New Yorkers (45 percent) have avoided care or taken drastic actions like cutting pills in half or not filling prescriptions. Over a third of New Yorkers (35 percent) reported serious financial repercussions including using up all or most of their savings, being put in collections, or being unable to pay for food, heat, or housing on top of medical bills.

New Yorkers from upstate and downstate and from both political parties want government action on healthcare costs.

New Yorkers blame health plans, the pharmaceutical industry, and providers like hospitals almost equally. They are ready for the government to step up and do something. But the only proposal in the governor’s budget that could address costs is one that would license pharmacy benefit managers. That’s a great start in reining in prescription drug costs, but it’s a step many other states have already taken. The state could do a lot more to help New Yorkers manage this problem, including a state premium assistance program, a drug utilization board that could set prescription drug rates, or creating a public option for the lowest-income people in the individual market (see our budget testimony here for more information).