Assembly Begins State Budget Passage

Bolsters hospitals and nursing homes while extending care to more New Yorkers
April 2, 2008
Assemblymember Alec Brook-Krasny (D-Coney Island, Dyker Heights) said the final state budget will strengthen New York hospitals, nursing homes and health care programs, furthering New York's goal to provide quality health care for its residents.

"We're passing a final state budget that comes through for working families," Brook-Krasny said. "We've come together in a bipartisan way to pass this important budget bill."

In total, the final state budget for 2008-2009 provides approximately $49 billion for health care in New York State; it restores $453 million in health care reductions, including a restoration of $408 million in Medicaid reductions proposed by the executive.

"Making sure our health care system works is of the utmost importance," Brook-Krasny said. "The economic climate in which this budget was drafted is a difficult one, and we've had to make tough choices. But we recognize providing affordable, reliable health care is a necessity so we've done everything we can to make sure we protect and improve our health care facilities and programs."

Child Health Plus and EPIC

"An important component to improving our health care is the expansion of health insurance coverage to the uninsured, especially children," Brook-Krasny said. "The Assembly is committed to the idea that no child in this state should be without health insurance."

The final budget rejects a Child Health Plus premium increase, saving families $24 million.

"The health care budget places the focus where it should be on keeping our families healthy," Brook-Krasny said. "We rejected the executive budget's plan to increase Child Health Plus premiums statewide. Now is not the time to be raising health care premiums. Our children's health shouldn't be jeopardized simply because some parents bring home a smaller paycheck than others, and the program will remain an affordable option for those who need it."

In addition, the Assembly rejected the executive budget proposal to make EPIC drugs which are not covered by Medicare Part D subject to prior authorization, and instead helped shape an alternative program that places the burden on EPIC not the beneficiary to appeal Medicare Part D denials. As a result, seniors will be able to continue to get the medications they need without facing unnecessary obstacles.

Health care facilities: hospitals, clinics and critical care centers

The final health budget restores millions of dollars to New York's health care facilities, including $129 million related to hospital reform initiatives, and maintains critical new funding for hospital and non-hospital out-patient investments, including funding for clinics and critical care centers.

"In order to create more efficient health care centers while also ensuring quality care, we need to shift our focus from cost-prohibitive in-patient, hospital care to cost-effective out-patient, ambulatory care," Brook-Krasny said.

The reform initiatives put forth in the budget will gradually phase this in over the next four years and will also enable the medical community to participate in the process, ensuring an effective transition.

The final budget restores $62 million in proposed reductions in home care, including rejecting the Certified Home Health Agency (CHHA) rate freeze at the 2005 level.

Nursing homes

Apart from hospitals and clinics, the final health budget fully restores $170 million to nursing homes to meet the reimbursement reform initiatives authorized in the 2006-07 budget, and provides an additional $30 million for a restoration of workforce recruitment and retention.

"Nursing homes play essential roles in our communities by caring for the elderly and disabled," Brook-Krasny said. "We need to protect and preserve the critical services these institutions provide because without them, patients won't get the care they need. Moreover, nursing homes aren't just about health care they also provide invaluable employment opportunities for the communities they serve, and this budget will go a long way to protect nursing home jobs in an uncertain economy."

Other health budget highlights include:

  • Restoration of $31 million in pharmacy reductions;
  • Creation of a discount prescription drug card for New Yorkers 50 to 64 years old or for the disabled;
  • Rejection of the proposed elimination of the specialty HIV pharmacy program under Medicaid;
  • Rejection of the proposed elimination of the exemption of antidepressant medication from the Preferred Drug List, ensuring these medications remain available and affordable to those who need them; and
  • Acceptance of the "Doctors Across New York" program, which will expand health care to under served areas, and a further study of future inclusion of other health care professionals such as dentists, midwives, nurse practitioners and physicians' assistants.

"The current difficult economic situation is not particular to New York alone it is national, it is global," Brook-Krasny said. "Considering how bleak the overall picture looks at times, we're pleased that this budget will deliver for New Yorkers in so many significant and positive ways that work toward promoting and preserving good health."