With the deadline for the New York State budget fast approaching, Coverage for All legislation (Rivera S2237|Gonzalez-Rojas A3020) is on the short list of items under consideration. The State Senate and Assembly have included the measure to expand health insurance to all New York immigrants in their one-house budgets—a crucial step closer towards true health equity in the state.
In this critical moment, the Coverage for All coalition is again sharing the most thorough recent poll on the subject while urging Governor Hochul to follow the legislature’s lead. The poll, released by the Community Service Society (CSS) last year, shows that 8 in 10 New Yorkers agree that someone’s background – including gender, sex, language, and immigration status – should not make it harder to get quality healthcare, including 88 percent of Long Islanders. This was true for the majority of people regardless of party affiliation or geography.
Coverage for All is not only popular with the public, but supported by a broad and diverse coalition, including The Business Council, Greater New York Hospital Association, New York Health Plan Association, New York State Nurses Association, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, Committee of Interns and Residents, City of New York, Mary Bassett (former Commissioner of the New York State Department of Health and New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene), the New York State Health Foundation, Make the Road New York, The Community Service Society, New York Lawyer for the Public Interest, among others.
Last year, Governor Hochul promised to include undocumented immigrants in the state’s 1332 waiver application, yet she ultimately did not do so. Since then, advocates, elected officials, health care providers, and community members have raised the alarm and called on her to follow through on her promise.
In February, the New York State of Health opened the public comment period for an Affordable Care Act (ACA) Section 1332 State Innovation Waiver application to expand the Essential Plan to New Yorkers with incomes up to 250 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.
During that thirty-day comment period, New Yorkers submitted more than 1,500 comments asking the state to amend its 1332 waiver request to include all low-income immigrants, regardless of immigration status. A broad coalition of major healthcare stakeholders (see above) also submitted comments encouraging the state to include immigrants in the 1332 waiver.
Becca Telzak, Deputy Director at Make the Road New York, said, “New Yorkers across regions and backgrounds know that everyone in our state deserves health care coverage—regardless of immigration status. Coverage for All enjoys broad support because it is a critical measure to make this a reality in our state. We urge Governor Hochul to follow the legislature’s lead and ensure that in this state budget we prioritize the health of all.”
Elisabeth Benjamin, CSS Vice President of Health Initiatives, said, “New York should be a leader on progressive health care initiatives, and providing health coverage is popular with New Yorkers of all backgrounds. We urge Governor Hochul to honor her prior commitment to extend health coverage to immigrants and make health equity a reality in New York.”
The state’s Essential Plan Trust Fund Account has an existing $9 billion surplus and is estimated to generate an additional $2 billion annual surplus. Including undocumented immigrants in the 1332 waiver application would enable the state to use part of the $2 billion annual surplus in federal funding to pay for expanded coverage for immigrants, and would cover an estimated 255,000 uninsured people. Expanding immigrant coverage using the waiver would also save New York as much as $500 million, which it currently spends providing bare bones Emergency Medicaid coverage to immigrants.
The Covering for All legislation would also provide a major boost to our economy, with more than $700 million in benefits in New York City alone from increased life expectancy, productivity gains, personal financial stability, and health care systems savings from reduced emergency room visits.