Health Care Advocates and Union Leaders Meet with City Council Staff to Promote Budget Recommendations

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.

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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.

Enrollments in New Coverage Options under the Affordable Care Act Swell Beyond Expectations, and Uninsurance Rates Drop Dramatically

Everyone expected a last-minute rush to enroll in new health insurance plans created under the Affordable Care Act as the 2014 deadline for “open enrollment” approached on March 31st.  In the end, many are amazed at the preliminary numbers as they continue to roll in.  Kudos go out to all who helped outreach to the public and who helped uninsured people enroll!

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In New York, over 900,000 people have so far enrolled in either Medicaid, Child Health Plus (CHP), or new, private “Qualified Health Plans” (QHPs) through the state’s new health benefits exchange marketplace known as “New York State of Health” (NYSoH).  Approximately another 350,000 or more people remain certified to enroll but haven’t yet completed the process, and they have until April 15th to do so.  Of the enrollees, over 70% were previously uninsured.  Slightly more than half qualified for public insurance programs like Medicaid and Child Health Plus, with the balance enrolling in QHPs.  No details are yet known about how many qualified for premium subsidies and cost-sharing reductions for QHP coverage, but previous estimates were in the 70-80%  range.

The New York State Dept. of Health has estimated that between 1.6-1.8 million people would enroll in coverage by 2016, so the state is already more than half-way toward it’s goal.  With two more open enrollment periods ahead in the fall of 2014 and fall of 2015, officials are very optimistic going forward.  The state is expected to release more specific demographic data on 2014 enrollees later this month.  Data is still not known about those who enrolled in new health plans outside of the NYSoH exchange marketplace.

Nationally, the Obama administration announced on March 31 that 7.1 million people had enrolled in QHPs through exchange marketplaces, which exceeded their target for 2014.  Since then, two studies have come out expanding on these numbers.  On April 7, Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index released survey results that the national uninsurance rate fell from 18.0% in Sept. of last year to 14.5% in late March.  Rates fell most dramatically among African-Americans (20.9% to 17.6%), and low-income households making less than $36,000 annual income (30.7% to 27.5%).  On April 9, a survey by Rand American Life Panel estimated a net gain of 9.3 million Americans gaining health coverage as of mid-March, clocking the drop in uninsurance from 20.5% to 15.8%.

While enrollment into private QHPs is now over for 2014, the numbers will continue to rise for the rest of the year because “anytime enrollment” is still possible through NYSoH for those who qualify for Medicaid and CHP, and for small employers (50 or less full-time equivalent employees.)  In addition, individuals and families who may experience a qualifying life event such as marriage/divorce, loss/change of job, relocation to a new state or region, etc. will qualify for a 60-day “special enrollment period” into either a QHP, Medicaid, or CHP.  Further information on these options is available from the NYSoH website and Call Center (855-355-5777), or from the state’s designated consumer assistance program, Community Health Advocates (888-614-5400).

Health Care Comes Out on Top in Final New York State Budget, While Crucial Good Government Reforms are Jettisoned and Tax Policy Regresses

Like smoke rising from a chimney at the Vatican when a new pope is elected, advocates and lobbyists of all stripes await the announcement of a final budget deal with much hope and anxiety, wondering if and to what degree their efforts over a 2-1/2 month period paid off, or will they go home empty handed.

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The good news for that this year, much of what health care advocates pushed for was included in the final enacted budget for FY 2015 that began on April 1st, after being adopted by the State Legislature the day before and signed into law by Governor Cuomo that morning.

Among the health care provisions negotiated between the Governor and legislatures are:

  • Authorization to move forward with implementation of a new “Basic Health Program” that will provide very low-cost insurance coverage to people just above the Medicaid level up to 200% of the Federal Poverty Level ($23,000 for an individual, $42,000 for a family of four.)  Estimates are that monthly premiums would be up to $20 per person.  Advocates hope this new program will become available starting in 2015.
  • New expanded consumer rights and protections, starting in 2015, for out-of-network services and providers, including:
  • Protection from “surprise medical bills” – Consumers will only be responsible for paying the in-network rate for emergency services, and for scheduled services when an in-network provider is not available or the consumer is not informed in advance that out-of-network providers will be involved in providing care.  It will now be up to insurers and providers to resolve between themselves any billing disputes via an independent process, and the patient will be held harmless.
  • The right to go out-of-network at the in-network rate – either for services that an insurer’s network doesn’t provide, or when an insurer’s network does not have an appropriate provider in-network.  Out-of-network referrals must be made by in-network providers.  An independent, external review process can be utilized when needed.
  • Improved disclosure of information – Insurers must keep their network lists up-to-date (within 30 days), and disclose at what rate they reimburse for out-of-network services (when they are covered.)  Providers must keep their list of what plans they take up to date (within 30 days) and disclose how much they charge for given service when it is provided out-of-network.
  • Consumers must be allowed to submit out-of-network coverage requests and claims electronically.
  • Insurers that do offer across-the-board out-of-network coverage will have to market at least one plan that provides it at a decent, fairly robust reimbursement level.
  • All health care plans will now have to meet the same level of network adequacy standards, whether they are HMOs, PPOs, EPOs, or other types.
  • Continued funding for community-based consumer assistance programs across the state.  Now that over 900,000 New Yorkers (and counting!) have gotten health insurance through the “New York State of Health” marketplace, these programs will help them to use their new coverage and troubleshoot any problems with it.  They will also help uninsured New Yorkers to access needed services when they are injured or become ill.  New York’s official program is known as “Community Health Advocates”, a statewide network of non-profits
  • A variety of provisions in the budget will be of benefit to people on Medicaid.  Medicaid Matters New York is preparing a summary of them

Finally, while health care advocates are very pleased with these results, many are also very disappointed that the Governor and Legislature refused to move forward on historic campaign finance and ethics reform measures.  These provisions would have enabled a variety of long-stymied measures to move forward in the legislative process, strengthened efforts to combat political corruption, and incentivized community-based leaders to pursue elective office so as to create a state government that is more reflective of the diversity of New York’s population.  In addition, regressive tax measures were enacted that favor the wealthy and large corporations, and further lock-in structural deficits in future budgets, thereby threatening ongoing funding for health care and other social programs in future years.

Uninsured New Yorkers Rush to Enroll in New Health Plans as March 31 Deadline Approaches, and Activists Make Final Outreach Push

As the end of this month nears, individuals and families who lack health insurance are flocking to sign-up for affordable coverage through New York’s new health benefits exchange, known as “New York State of Health”.  If enrolled in a plan by March 31st, they will escape an additional tax next year, provided they don’t qualify for a special exemption (see complete list at www.healthcare.gov/exemptions/).  Meanwhile, advocates and activists are hitting the streets, church halls, community centers, etc. in one last effort to find the uninsured and get them enrolled in a health plan.

The Good News!

Financial Assistance:  The vast majority of applicants will likely qualify for:

  • No-cost coverage through Medicaid if they have low or no income (approx. $15,000 for an individual.)
  • No-cost or very low cost coverage for most children through New York’s “Child Health Plus” program (up to approx. $94,000 for a family of four.)
  • Premium subsidies to help them purchase private “Qualified Health Plans” (QHPs) offered on the exchange, per a sliding-scale based on family size and income.  The subsidies are available to individuals who make up to approx. $45,000 annual income, and up to $94,000 for a family of four.
  • Additional help paying for deductibles, co-pays, and co-insurance if they have modest incomes just above the Medicaid eligibility level.

Thanks to the historic Affordable Care Act, much more affordable health coverage is now available to uninsured New Yorkers through New York State of Health.  Premium prices have, on average, dropped 53% compared to 2013 prices.   As of March 24, one week out from the enrollment deadline, over a million New Yorkers had created an account and completed an application, and over 700,000 had completed the process and enrolled in a health plan.  These numbers are higher than anticipated projections.

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Where and How to Get FREE HELP Enrolling in Coverage:

  • Via the state’s website:  www.nystateofhealth.ny.gov  (includes a live chat function to provide assistance)
  • Via the state’s Call Center:  855-355-5777 (Mon.-Fri. from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sat. from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
  • Via community-based “Navigators” in each county/borough (http://info.nystateofhealth.ny.gov/IPANavigatorSiteLocations)
  •  Via “Certified Application Counselors” (CACs) at local hospitals and community health centers
  • Via traditional insurance agents and brokers (note: they are not allowed to charge commissions.)

People can also contact New York’s designated Consumer Assistance Program known as “Community Health Advocates” (www.communityhealthadvocates.org or 888-614-5400).  This program, created and funded under the ACA, is a statewide network of community-based organizations that provides insurance counseling to people.  They can also refer people to Navigators and answer basic questions about enrollment in plans.  Some of them may also Navigators who can enroll people, while others are not.

After the “2014 Open Enrollment” period closes on March 31st, people can still enroll in a plan in the following circumstances:

  • Low-income people who qualify for Medicaid can enroll at any time (up to approx. $15,000 annual income for an individual, or higher income amounts depending on family size.)
  • Children can enroll in Family Health Plus at any time (up to $94,000 annual income for a family of four.)
  • Small employers (50 or less full-time workers) can purchase coverage for their employees at any time.
  • People who have special “life changing” events (marriage/divorce, birth of a child, move to a new town/state/region, age-off of parent’s plan, lose or change jobs, etc.) are allowed to enroll in QHPs at any time.

Some caveats:

  • DON’T DELAY!  Uninsured people should start the process as soon as possible.  As the deadline approaches, Call Center phone lines will be busy, websites will slow down, and Navigators and CACs will be booked up for appointments.  ACT NOW!
  • People on Medicare don’t have to worry about any of this – they stay in the separate Medicare system just as is.
  • Workers who have employer-sponsored insurance that complies with Affordable Care Act (ACA) standards also don’t have to worry about any of this.  Check with your human resources dept. to confirm if your current coverage is OK.

FINALLY… our job as those who care….

  • Reach out to the uninsured to provide them with this basic information
  • Encourage them to go online or call the Call Center to get things started …NOW!
  • Help them create an online account and get the basic information entered about their family size and expected income for 2014
  • Get them to a Navigator, CAC, insurance broker or agent for in-person assistance in enrolling in a plan, if needed

New Yorkers Gather to Commemorate Anniversary of Historic Fire That Spawned Modern Workplace Safety and Health Standards

Scores of New Yorkers from trade unions, community groups, and school children gathered just off Washington Square in Greenwich Village on March 25 to commemorate the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911 and remember those who died in the fire, many of whom were young immigrant workers, most of them women.  The ceremony was held outside the building that housed the factory back then, which is now part of the campus of New York University.  Speakers included local trade union leaders, public officials, clergy, and first responders, including Rabbi Michael Feinberg of the Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition, Stuart Appelbaum of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Workers, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, and NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.  Specially-featured speakers were leaders from the “new labor organizing movement” that focuses on fast-food workers, airport workers, and “car washeros”, many of whom are immigrants and work in potentially-dangerous circumstances.

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Members of Workers United, a successor union to the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, held aloft on poles dresses and shirts each bearing the name of one of the casualties of the historic fire.  At the end of the ceremony, a stream of people read off their names and placed a white carnation for each at the foot of the building adjacent to a fire truck with its ladder raised against it.  A uniformed fire fighter rang a bell for each name as a recording of bag pipe music played in the background.  Among those reading off the names were public school students, immigrant trade unionists, and some descendants of those who died in the fire, who directly referenced their own ancestors.  Following those names, red carnations were added for the many garment workers who’ve died in similar factory fires and accidents in Asia in recent years.

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146 workers, 123 women and 23 men, perished on the late Saturday afternoon in 1911 when a fire engulfed floors eight through ten of the Asch Building on the corner of Washington Place and Greene Street. Though firefighters responded promptly, their ladders only reached up to the sixth floor. The shoddy fire escape quickly collapsed, taking 20 workers down with it. With one stairway exit blocked by flames and the others locked by the owners, workers faced a choice between jumping to their deaths or succumbing to flame and smoke. The horror of the fire led to the fight for and implementation of a wide array of new health and safety standards in the workplace at the city, state, and federal levels, as well as the formation of the American Society of Safety Engineers.

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Health Care Activists Join in Call for Historic Campaign Finance Reform in New York

Political activists of various stripes who work on various issues, including health care, converged at the top of the “Million Dollar Staircase” inside the State Capitol on March 11th to demand that lawmakers clean up Albany politics.  They called on legislators to move forward with a plan to curtail the influence of “Big Money” in election campaigns, and replace it with a system of public matching funds linked to small donations collected from constituents.  Known as a “Fair Elections” approach, the plan would replicate a system in New York City that has been in place for well over a decade and take it statewide.  The result in the City has been to completely transform municipal government so that it is much more reflective of the city’s demographics, and much more responsive to everyday residents’ concerns and priorities, such as access to affordable health care.

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Before a throng of cameras and reporters, State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver addressed an enthusiastic  crowd of over 200 people who were jammed into the stairwell and hanging over balconies.  He announced that the Assembly was including a Fair Elections proposal in its own just-released budget bill (to be voted on by the end of the week), saying it was time to “get it done.”  Over the past decade, there have been numerous financial corruption scandals involving leaders and members of the State Legislature, leading to indictments, resignations, convictions, and jail time.

A Fair Elections proposal has been enacted by the State Assembly numerous times over the past decade, and Governor Cuomo included such a proposal in his own proposed budget released in January.  It will now go forward into final negotiations with State Senate leaders where there are differences within the coalition governing majority comprised of Republicans and five (renegade) Independent Democrats.  Here in New York City, there is only one Republican Senator (Martin Golden of Brooklyn), and three Independent Democrats (Jeff Klein of the Bronx, who leads the faction, Diane Savino of Staten Island and southwest Brooklyn, and Tony Avella of eastern Queens.)  The budget process is to be concluded by the end of March when the new fiscal year begins for the state on April 1.

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Issue advocates, including those who work on health care reform, have long believed that many of our aspirations and good ideas to make things better for everyday New Yorkers have been stopped dead in their tracks because of the inordinate influence of Big Money forces, such as millionaires and large, powerful corporations.  Historically, they have had disproportionate sway over individual legislators because of the money they contribute to candidates’ election campaigns.  In the area of health care, many believe New York would have enacted a truly universal health care program years ago had it not been for the dominance of the insurance companies and other stakeholders striving to protect, if not expand, their profiteering off the health care system.  While New York has certainly been a “leader state” in the area of health care compared to most other states, prospects for much more progress will be possible under a Fair Elections system because elected officials will be much more beholden to the electorate rather than Big Money donors.  We look forward to that day with eagerness and hope.

International Women’s Day 2014: NYC Health Care Unions and Community Activists Stage “Cook-Out to Keep Koch Out” and Defend Women’s Health Care Rights

Members of various health care unions and community health care activists took to the streets of Manhattan’s Upper East Side on March 8th to commemorate International Women’s Day, and call-out the influence of billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch in funding campaigns to restrict health care choices for women.  The two brothers are Midwest industrialists and investors who are well-known for financially supporting conservative political causes and candidates, including efforts by states to curtail women’s access to comprehensive reproductive health care and collective bargaining rights.

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The event was organized by the New York State Nurses Association, 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, and local chapters of the NAACP.  Other sponsoring groups included ACT UP/NY, Doctors for the 99%, Healthcare for the 99%, Healthcare Now NYC, Metro NY Health Care for All Campaign, the NY Metro chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program, and others.

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The day began with a “pancake-breakfast-in-the-streets” outside New York Hospital.  David Koch recently gave them a $100M donation to fund construction of a new building there to be named after him.  From there, the group marched to a nearby Chase bank branch for a rally decrying the casino-like gambling of Wall St. speculators and their investor clientele (like the Koch brothers) that brought about the Great Recession which is still an ongoing reality for millions of struggling New Yorkers.  They were joined there by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.  After the rally, the group marched over to the Park Ave. location where David Koch has an apartment that he uses when in New York.

“Union Healthcare Summit” Being Convened in NYC

NYC labor leaders and their community allies are sitting down to discuss the current state of health care in America, particularly for workers and trade unions.  In the wake of the enactment of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, much change is underway: beneficial, problematic, and otherwise.

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On Thurs. morning Feb. 27, Labor Press, an online news source, is hosting a gathering to bring various union movement stakeholders together to talk about how things are going, what’s been accomplished, what challenges they are facing, and a the vision for the longer-term.  The summit kicks off with remarks from the new Speaker of the New York City Council, Melissa Mark-Viverito, and features R. Thomas Buffenberger, President of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, as the keynoter.  Three panels then follow.

The first panel, “Navigating the New Healthcare World”, moderated by Mark Hannay (Metro New York Health Care for All Campaign), features Tom Canty (Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield), Frank Proscia (Doctors’ Council, SEIU), Michael Jordon (MagnaCare), William Friedman (Health Republic), Joseph Malloy (North Shore LIJ), and Jerry Gallo (EmblemHealth).

The second panel, “Meeting New Healthcare Challenges”, moderated by Oren Levin-Waldman, (Metropolitan College of NY), features Jack Lepetich (Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield), Joseph Berardo (MagnaCare), William Friedman (Health Republic), Stephen Magla (Pitta Giblin LLP), Susan McQuade (NY Committee on Occupational Safety and Health), and Larry Cary (Cary Kane LLP).

The summit’s final panel, “ACA Passage and Winning an Improved and Better Plan”, moderated by Gene Carrol (NYS AFL-CIO/Cornell Union Leadership Institute), features Richard Gottfried (NYS Assembly), Mitra Behroozi (1199 SEIU Pension and Benefit Funds), Oliver Fein (Physicians for a National Health Program), Edward Kaplan (Segal and Co.), George Bueno (Office and Professional Employees International Union), John August (Cornell ILR School), Howard Raphaelson (Raphaelson and Levine), Howard Gold (North Shore LIJ), Paul Zurlo (EmblemHealth).

The summit is being held at the NYC District Council of Carpenters on Hudson St. in Manhattan.  Full details and reservations are at www.laborpress.org

Health Care Advocates Ramp-Up State Budget Efforts

Advocates from a variety of consumer health groups and coalitions are kicking into full gear as the all-too-crucial month of March arrives when the state budget will be finalized.  They are conducting advocacy days in Albany, placing paid advertising in key media outlets, circulating sign-on letters to legislative leaders, submitting legislative memos on specific budget provisions they support or oppose, dropping off packets of policy materials at legislators’ offices, holding press conferences, organizing “twitter rallies”, posting updates on Facebook, making phone calls, signing-on to email petitions, and convening annual meetings and webinars.  Whew!

HCFANY Ann Mtg 3 1-9-13One key issue many are promoting is the creation of a new “Basic Health Program” (BHP) to provide very low-cost insurance coverage to lower-income New Yorkers whose incomes are too high for Medicaid and often fluctuate significantly from month-to-month, the “working poor.”  While the state’s new health benefits exchange marketplace (“New York State of Health”) has lowered insurance premiums dramatically (more than half compared to 2013) and offers generous financial support to lower-income people to help them purchase a plan, they often still struggle to afford the coverage and/or use it given deductibles and co-pays.  In addition, a BHP will bring millions of dollars of new federal funding into New York to help relieve the state of what it spends on its own to provide coverage to lawfully-present immigrants.  BHP is an option available to states under the Affordable Care Act starting in 2015.  Health Care for All New York is leading this campaign.

A second key issue concerns various measures to improve and expand consumer protections for people who need to go “out-of-network” for care.  After a 3-year struggle to forge agreement between insurers, doctors and hospitals, and consumer, Gov. Cuomo’s Dept. of Financial Services has come out with a package of proposals to a) hold consumers harmless when they receive “surprise bills” after hospitalizations, b) establish an independent arbitration to resolve payment disputes between doctors/hospitals and insurers, c) sets standards for the quality of out-of-network coverage (when it is offered by insurers), d) improve disclosure to consumers about provider networks, reimbursement methods and formulas, and provider rates, e) strengthen standards for the adequacy of insurers’ provider networks, including the right to go out of network via an external appeal process, and f) institute a uniform electronic claim form for out-of-network services to be used by insurers and doctors/hospitals.  New Yorkers for Accessible Health Coverage is spearheading this campaign.

Another priority is continued funding for community-based consumer assistance programs (CAPs).  While a variety of “in-person assisters” (“navigators”, “certified application counselors”, brokers, and agents) are busily signing up individuals, families, and small employers into new health plans available on the New York State of Health marketplace (over 500,000 already!), once people get enrolled in a plan, they often need help figuring out how to use it and trouble-shoot any problems they encounter, particularly if they’ve been uninsured and are not familiar with the very basics of health insurance.  Fortunately, the Affordable Care Act provides funding to states to set up CAPs – ours here in New York is known as Community Health Advocates (CHA), a statewide network of many community organizations.  Gov. Cuomo has proposed a new appropriation of federal funds for CHA.  If you know someone with an insurance problem or with paying a doctor or hospital bill or getting access to a needed medical service, CHA is definitely the place to go!

Finally, advocates for people on Medicaid are promoting the need for important consumer protections as the state continues forward with its “Medicaid Redesign” process to move all Medicaid-covered services into various “care coordination” programs.  With the recent approval of the state’s latest “Medicaid Waiver” by the Obama administration, things are now expected to move forward even more expansively.  An critical issue related to this new waiver also concerns funding for “vital access” or “safety net” providers that disproportionately serve many people on Medicaid and the uninsured.  An important aspect will be funding regional health planning to make sure that all parts of our state and city have services available in their communities.  The ongoing hospital crisis in northern and central Brooklyn calls for such a priority.  Medicaid Matters New York is leading this effort.

Civil Rights Pioneer Rep. John Conyers Addresses New York Labor Leaders and Health Care Advocates

The morning following the death of South African freedom fighter and former President Nelson Mandela, Rep. John Conyers of Michigan spoke at a breakfast meeting on December 6th sponsored by the New York City Central Labor Council and Progressive Democrats of America.  He recalled his work as a young lawyer within the U.S. civil rights movement and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference led by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and hiring icon Rosa Parks who worked in his Detroit office for over 25 years.  He also spoke about the continuing fight for universal health care in America and his proposed “Improved and Expanded Medicare for All Act” (JH.R. 676), and about the need to address the nation’s current unemployment crisis in the wake of the ongoing Great Recession and his proposed “Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment and Training Act” (H.R. 1000).

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Rep. Conyers was introduced by veteran television talk show host Phil Donohue (lower right), who spoke about his own roots in the trade union movement as a young man in Youngstown, Ohio.  Additional speakers at the breakfast included: Vinny Alvarez, President of the New York City Central Labor Council; Bobby Score, Recording-Corresponding Secretary of Local One of the International Association of Technical and Stage Employees; and a spokesperson for Progressive Democrats of America. 

During the question period, Rep. Conyers also addressed concerns that trade unions have about some provisions of the Affordable Care Act that they would like to see changed, and aspects of an FY 2014 budget agreement emerging in Congress that may affect social, employment, and health care programs.