Health Advocates and Union Leaders Fight to Save Safety Net Provisions in Health Care Reform Bill
By Summer Brennan
On January 20th, labor unions and health advocates held a press conference on the steps of City Hall and urged Senators Schumer and Gillibrand to block provisions in the Health Care Reform bill that would adversely affect New York City.
“For 274 years, New York City has provided comprehensive, high quality health care to all New Yorkers regardless of their ability to pay,” said Dr. Barry Liebowitz, President of Doctors Council SEIU.
However, Liebowitz pointed out, the Senate bill would cut more than $500 million a year in funding for the Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC). “This provision could force the closure of municipal and voluntary hospitals and bankrupt [the city’s] healthcare system,” he added.
Under the House version of the bill, Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) funding would only be reduced if the number of uninsured patients declined, while the Senate bill provides no such check. The House bill would also allow undocumented workers to purchase insurance coverage, while the Senate bill would not, thus letting those costs fall to New York hospitals.
Also under the Senate bill, New York would not receive its needed share of federal funds like other states. This would add close to $ 1 billion in State Medicaid costs and lead to a reduction in payments to hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies and community clinics.
Dr. Luella Toni Lewis, President of the Committee of Interns and Residents SEIU, stated, “Medicaid is the safety net. Without Medicaid, families would be in crisis.”
“We cannot continue to allow medical expenses to bankrupt New York State families and businesses,” said Arthur Cheliotes, president of Communication Workers Local 1180. “Congress and the President must keep going and must finish it right.”
“It is time to put health care justice ahead of politics,” Cheliotes continued. “The current system is not sustainable, and therefore not an option. Anyone who seeks to profit from healthcare does not understand what it means to be civilized.”