Emergency Briefing and Rally for the HEROES Act

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.

Guest post by Lois Uttley and Emma Chessen.

Remember St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan, now the site of luxury condos? How about Millard Fillmore Gates Hospital, now an assisted living facility? Or Cornwall Hospital, which was gradually dismantled as an inpatient facility and replaced with outpatient care? Perhaps you were a patient of Amsterdam Memorial Hospital, which was closed in 2014 and converted into an ambulatory surgery center. Wonder what’s happening to community hospitals all over New York?

If so, you are not alone. Over the last 20 years, 41 New York hospitals have closed all of their inpatient services, affecting consumers across the state. Many of the remaining hospitals, particularly smaller community hospitals, are joining large health systems. In fact, the 12 largest health care systems now control half of all acute care hospitals in the state and 70 percent of the inpatient acute care beds.

Why is all this hospital consolidation happening? One cause is the movement of medical care into outpatient settings, leaving unneeded hospital beds. Another factor is the rise of complicated reimbursement schemes that require the sophistication of a large hospital system. Some urban hospitals are suffering financially from treating a high percentage of patients who are uninsured or have Medicaid, as opposed to better paying commercial insurance, and receive inadequate government support for serving these patients.

What does consolidation mean for consumers? Hospitals joining systems often argue that quality of care and financial stability will be improved. But, hospital consolidation can have negative consequences for affected consumers. Local hospitals that join large systems are sometimes downsized, closed or transformed into outpatient facilities. Patients needing advanced care may be referred to academic medical centers located an hour or more away. Decision-making often shifts to out-of-town system executives who don’t know the community and the specific health needs of the local population. Consolidation can also cause the price of health care to go up.

With such significant consequences for patients, it’s important that consumers have a say when their local hospitals are proposing mergers or other types of consolidation. But all too often, that doesn’t happen, according to year-long study MergerWatch recently completed with the support of the New York State Health Foundation. Our report, “Empowering New York Consumers in an Era of Hospital Consolidation,” concluded that New York’s 54-year-old Certificate of Need (CON) system of state hospital oversight needs to be updated to ensure that consumers are notified and engaged when their local hospitals propose to join health systems or plan to downsize, close or transform the way they deliver health services.

MergerWatch’s recommendations include requiring public hearings in affected communities prior to hospital closings or elimination of key services, such as maternity care or the emergency department. MergerWatch urges that when health systems are taking over local hospitals, they should be required to disclose whether services might be downsized or transferred elsewhere in the system, and predict whether the transaction might cause the price of health care to go up. The report also recommends changes to the New York State Department of Health website to make it easier for consumers to find information about proposed hospital consolidations and submit comments.

The report urges a stronger voice for consumers in state decision-making through increased consumer representation on the state Public Health and Health Planning Council (PHHPC), which considers the most important hospital transactions. The PPHPC has only one consumer seat, and it has been vacant since 2016, while the majority of council members (including the chair) are employed by hospitals and other health providers. By contrast, in New Jersey and Maryland the majority of hospital review board members are consumers and in Delaware, the chair of the review board must be drawn from the “public at large.”

As hospital consolidation continues around the state, MergerWatch hopes to see an improved and more transparent state review process that informs, engages and carefully considers comments from the consumers whose health care will be dramatically affected. Want to learn more about our findings and recommendations, and get involved in helping improve the system? Join our webinar on July 19 at 2 pm.

Lois Uttley, MPP, lead author of the new report, is founder of MergerWatch and Director of Women’s Health for Community Catalyst. She serves on the steering committee of Health Care for All NY. Emma Chessen, co-author of the report, received her Master’s in Public Health in May from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

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.

RWV National Women's Health Month 2018 GraphicGuest post by Jessica Pierson, graduate student intern with Raising Women’s Voices-NY.

National Women’s Health Week kicked off on Mother’s Day and will continue through Saturday, May 19th. Raising Women’s Voices-NY is celebrating by hosting activities and providing resources to promote women’s health throughout the week.

On Tuesday, May 15th, Raising Women’s Voices is hosting a Twitter Chat from 2 to 3 p.m. to discuss women’s health using the hashtag, #HerHealth. Organizations from around the country will be sharing information on a range of women’s health topics, such as what to expect at a well-woman visit, black maternal health disparities, how to take advantage of cost-free preventive services, reproductive health care for trans folks and how to navigate the health care system.

National Women’s Health Week is a great time to remind women to schedule their annual well-woman visit, which is free with their health insurance. RWV has created a flyer outlining key women’s preventive services for health organizations to use in promoting National Women’s Health Week. Navigating the health system can be difficult and confusing. RWV’s flyer can help simplify women’s experiences with the health system by explaining that services such as birth control, STI/HIV testing, blood pressure tests, flu shots and help quitting smoking are all included in a free well-women’s visit! The flyer also explains how to schedule an appointment, what to expect at the appointment and how to get the most out of the visit. RWV suggests distributing these customizable flyers at bus stops, laundromats or other local spots in order to reach women in every corner of your community.

Looking to promote women’s health in your area? RWV suggests amplifying National Women’s Health week by hosting an open house or community care night, holding a panel discussion or press events.

The Affordable Care Act improved access to women’s health services, but still millions of women are uninsured. Although Open Enrollment for health insurance through NY State of Health doesn’t start again until November, women may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period of 60 days if they experience a qualifying life event. Examples include losing your job-based health insurance, getting married, having a baby, adopting a child or, in New York only, becoming pregnant. Medicaid, Essential Plan, and Child Health Plus enrollment continue year-round. If you think you might qualify for enrollment, contact the Community Health Advocates hotline at 888-614-5400.

It is imperative that we celebrate National Women’s Health Week by helping women get insured and utilize their insurance wisely to optimize their health and well-being, and catch health problems early. RWV hopes you will join us for our Twitter Chat on May 15 and help us promote women’s health all week long!