It’s a whole new day (and government) in New York City in 2014! With a new Mayor, Public Advocate, Comptroller, Council Speaker, and 21 Council Members, most of whom are proudly self-proclaimed political progressives, hopes are running high that significant strides can be made to enhance access to health care coverage and services and address outstanding public health problems.
Gathering together under the umbrella of the People’s Budget Coalition for Public Health (PBC), an effort spearheaded by the Commission on the Public’s Health System and the Federation for Protestant Welfare Agencies, a diverse range of health care advocates and their union partners have joined forces to craft a proactive budget agenda which they are sharing with City Hall officials and their staffs with an eye toward influencing their initial budget proposals. This approach differs from previous years when they usually had to wait for budget proposals to come out before acting in response.
On April 8, PBC members met with City Council central staff for the Health and Finance Committees, and staff for Council Health Committee chair Corey Johnson. Participating groups included the Center for Independence of the Disabled-NY, Children’s Defense Fund of NY, Choices in Childbirth, Coalition for Asian-American Children and Families, Commission on the Public’s Health System, District Council 37 AFSCME, Doctors’ Council SEIU, Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, Greater Brooklyn Health Coalition, Local 420 DC 37 AFSCME, Manhattan-Staten Island Area Health Education Center, Metro NY Health Care for All Campaign, NY Immigration Coalition, and the NYS Nurses Association.
The group laid out overall priorities of:
- Increasing democratic control over and community participation in decisions concerning health care resources and public health measures
- Developing preventive health programs that educate and empower local communities in self-care
- Addressing disparities in health, health care, and insurance coverage for racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, women, children and youth, seniors, people with disabilities, and LGBT people.
- Preserving and expanding the health care safety net, particularly the NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC)
- Expanding primary care and dental care services
- Addressing the crisis of hospital closures
They also proposed new programs focusing on women of child-bearing age, workforce diversity, community health planning, and community-based outreach to the uninsured to help them access services and enroll in coverage.
Mayor De Blasio released his preliminary budget proposals for FY 2105 back in February. Various Council committees held hearings on it during March. City Council staff indicated the Council would be releasing its formal response in late April. The Mayor’s final budget proposal is due out in early May. The Council will then hold a second round of hearings before undertaking negotiations with the Mayor in June, with the goal of reaching an agreement by July 1st when the new fiscal year begins.