By CSS NY
This week, CSS VP of Health Initiatives Elisabeth Benjamin joined David Lombardo on The Capitol Pressroom to discuss how Governor Kathy Hochul can use her new position to make our state’s health care system work better for patients.
Below are six items that should be on Governor Hochul’s health care to-do list:
1. PASS THE NEW YORK HEALTH ACT
Our health care system is failing the people it’s meant to serve — the patients. While the Cuomo administration had a track record of catering to big industry players, Governor Hochul can immediately turn the page by focusing on care over profit.
The New York Health Act would allocate resources fairly, ensure coverage for all New Yorkers, and be user-friendly without the navigational headaches under the current byzantine system.
2. PASS COVERAGE4ALL TO EXPAND THE ESSENTIAL PLAN TO IMMIGRANTS
While the New York Health Act would be a game-changer for our state, it will take time to implement. There are several moves that Hochul’s administration can make now to provide immediate relief for New Yorkers who need access to affordable care. First among them is passing the Coverage4All bill.
Immigrants have disproportionately served on the frontlines as essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, and yet more than 400,000 immigrants in New York State do not have health care coverage due to immigration status.
Passing Coverage4All would extend Essential Plan health insurance to immigrants who ould be eligible already because of their income if not for their immigration status.
3. ENACT THE PATIENT MEDICAL DEBT PROTECTION ACT
All of New York’s hospitals are non-profits, yet more than half sue their patients. These lawsuits are typically for small amounts — the median bill is $1,900 — and target low-income patients who cannot afford to pay.
The Patient Medical Debt Protection Act would protect consumers from aggressive medical debt collections. This series of bills would:
- Ban hospitals from placing liens on patients’ home or garnishing their wages for medical debt.
- Make it easier for patients to obtain financial assistance that hospitals are required to provide by law based on their income by standardizing the application and eliminating the 90-day deadline to apply.
- Stop providers from charging patients for facility fees if they will not be covered by insurance and require providers to notify patients that facility fees will be added to their bill ahead of time.
4. SUPPORT SAFETY NET PROVIDERS THROUGH THE INDIGENT CARE POOL
Over the last 20 years, New York has lost 25,000 hospitals beds, many in communities that already had less access to health care. New York’s $1.1 billion in Indigent Care Pool (ICP) funding is supposed to help hospitals provide care for patients who are uninsured or unable to pay—but many wealthier hospitals who receive large ICP windfalls provide little financial assistance to patients. New York State law defines some hospitals as qualified safety-nets based on their patient mix.
We should target ICP funds where they are needed most: safety-net hospitals that need this funding to stay operational in lower-income communities around the state.
5. GUARANTEE EQUITY IN THE MEDICAID PROGRAM FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE OLDER, BLIND, OR HAVE DISABILITIES
Did you know that Medicaid has much stricter income limits for senior citizens, people who are visually impaired, and people who have disabilities? These are people who need care just as much, if not more, than the average person. However, their income cap is $10,000 per year, while everyone else’s is $17,000. Further, they have to pass an asset test even if they meet the income requirements – that means they must drastically limit how much money they save in order to keep their health care.
Many other states have fixed this inequity, and it’s time for New York to follow their lead. Eligibility for the Medicaid Aged and Disabled program should be increased to 138% of the FPL to match the rest of the Medicaid program and the asset test should be eliminated.
6. MAKE MARKETPLACE COVERAGE MORE AFFORDABLE FOR CONSUMERS
The Essential Plan, a basic health coverage plan with no deductibles and low co-pays, is a lifeline for over 800,00 New Yorkers. Expanding eligibility to 300% of the federal poverty line would make this affordable option available to many low-income workers who are less likely than higher earners to have an employer-sponsored plan.
Listen to Elisabeth’s full interview on The Capitol Pressroom here.