Statement on the Adopted 2021-22 Health and Medicaid Budget

Medicaid Matters New York and Health Care for All New York – the two major statewide health care consumer advocacy coalitions – applaud the State Legislature for several historic additions to the adopted state budget for 2021-22 related to funding for public schools and universities, rental and mortgage assistance, assistance to undocumented essential workers and small businesses, and taking some first steps toward restoring progressivity to the state’s tax system.  Millions of low-income New Yorkers who rely on our state’s public health insurance programs will benefit from these improvements to the Governor’s initial set of budget proposals.

However, our State leaders failed to break ground in health care, which is disappointing in light of a decade of austerity budgets and the ongoing nature of the COVID-19 public health crisis.  Medicaid Matters and HCFANY are specifically concerned about the following issues: 

  • The arbitrary Medicaid global spending cap was extended for another year.  As a consequence, Medicaid continues to be approached with an austerity mindset.  For ten years, Medicaid has suffered from unnecessary cuts, impacting access to services for low-income people, families, people with disabilities and communities.
  • Public health insurance coverage was not expanded to low-income immigrants who have had COVID-19.  Instead, those who are undocumented remain reliant solely on Emergency Medicaid for acute care and charity care programs for ongoing treatment.  As a consequence, many will likely forego seeking necessary care, thereby prolonging illness and suffering, risking death, and incurring medical bills they cannot pay.
  • The home care crisis and institutional bias remain unaddressed.  Home care workers play a vital role in serving and protecting disabled New Yorkers and seniors living independently, a role that became even more critical and evident during the pandemic.  However, New York’s failure to invest in home care has created a “worst in the nation” workforce crisis that prevents meaningful access to home care services for thousands of people and results in greater institutionalization.
  • This is the first time in decades that New York State has adopted a discriminatory maternity coverage policy.  Instead, only citizen and lawfully residing immigrant women will enroll in free (state-funded) Marketplace coverage after their Medicaid ends—continuing a system that allows for disruptions in care. 
  • No new initiatives were created to address inequities that are wide-spread throughout our state’s public health, health care, and health coverage systems, despite significant federal pandemic-related funds the state has received over the past year to address these disparities.  The pandemic has revealed them clearly, and they can no longer be ignored.

On the positive side, we thank both the Governor and Legislature for these new initiatives:

  • Eliminating all premiums in the state’s Essential Plan that provides insurance coverage to low-income people and families who are not eligible for Medicaid.  This move will enable them to keep medical, dental, and vision coverage in place without financial barriers, an important step during the ongoing pandemic.
  • Protecting the financial stability of community health centers and other safety net providers by delaying the implementation of the planned pharmacy carve-out from the state’s Medicaid Managed Care program.

We also acknowledge and appreciate restorations in funding cuts initially proposed by Governor Cuomo that made no sense given our ongoing pandemic:

  • An across-the-board Medicaid rate cut that particularly threatened safety net hospitals that serve large numbers of Medicaid and uninsured patients.
  • Elimination of Indigent Care Pool funding to public hospitals.
  • Cuts to the state’s Vital Access Provider Assistance Program that keeps certain safety net and rural hospitals financially afloat.
  • Additional cuts to Article VI public health funding to New York City.
  • Allowing insurers to impose restrictions on the ability of doctors to prescribe certain drugs to Medicaid patients (elimination of the provision known as “prescriber prevails”).
  • Another 25% cut to home care workforce recruitment and retention money that would have further harmed community-based long-term care.
  • Cuts to programs serving adult home residents.

While as a whole and on the surface it may appear that New York continues to meet the needs of those enrolled in our state’s public health insurance programs and the providers they rely on, the 2021-22 adopted budget fails to make needed investments to turn away from austerity politics, protect all immigrants, expand community-based long-term care, and promote health equity.  A lack of harm must not be confused with a budget that provides for what New Yorkers need.  We can do better, and we must.

Learn what’s in the HEROES Act from New York’s Congressional leaders and advocates, and find out what you can do get it enacted! The HEROES Act, which already passed the House, would provide much needed pandemic relief and protect the programs, like Medicaid, that are helping people get by during the crisis. Read more here, and register for the virtual rally here

Action step – Sign-ons needed by close of business tomorrow:

Sign your organization on to this letter (link) drafted by Citizen Action of New York, Medicaid Matters New York, Health Care For America Now, and HCFANY. The letter thanks Senators Schumer and Gillibrand for their work so far to protect New Yorkers during the pandemic – and describes what New Yorkers need included in an enacted version of the HEROES Act. Add your organization’s name here


Also Coming Up: 

100 Years On: Celebrating and Championing Our Civil Rights and Social Programs

So many of our most important civil rights laws and social programs were created in July and August – the National Labor Relations Act (1935), Social Security (1935), the Civil Rights Act (1964), Medicare and Medicaid (1965), the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990). Join fellow New York advocates to celebrate these achievements and fight for justice! 

  • Dessert Party for Democracy: A Multi-Generational Celebration. We will share pictures and videos of everyday people sharing stories and holding signs saying “I celebrate X because…” We will end with a toast and display of your dessert, holding up signs, including all members of your family or household. August 13, 7:00 – 8:00 PM, register here.
  • Renewing the American Promise: Defending and Expanding Our Social Contract. Learn more about the civil rights and social programs that everyday New Yorkers benefit from and learn how these programs and laws are at risk.  August 19, 12:00 – 1:00PM, register here.

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! 

On Friday, June 22, more than 70 HCFANY members from across the state gathered in Albany for our annual spring to learn about the Coalition’s ongoing and upcoming work to strengthen and expand health coverage all for New Yorkers and promote health equity. As you all know, it has been a very challenging year for health care, and we are very grateful to all who attended and engaged with us!

The agenda included an Advocates’ Panel during which we heard updates on HCFANY work on New York’s indigent care pool and safety net hospitals and the Coverage 4 All Campaign for immigrant coverage. We also discussed strategies for improving market stabilization and affordability in the individual market. Slides from the presentation are available here.

We were also honored to present our annual “Consumer Health Champion” Award to the grassroots groups, the “New York Grassroots Defenders of Health Care” who have been so instrumental in the fight to defend the ACA and Medicaid here in New York. Awardees included: ACR Health, “Faso Friday,” Long Island Save Our Health Care Alliance, NY-11 for Health Care, Rochester ADAPT, and Saratoga Progressive Action.

The meeting concluded with discussion and planning groups on federal advocacy, protecting New York State’s individual market, and preserving and expanding immigrant coverage.