Nolan Works to Deliver Budget with Focus on Expanding Patient Care

April 3, 2007
Assemblywoman Nolan (D-Queens) said the final state budget improves overall health care and focuses on the most important issue – expanding and improving patient care.

“The governor sought a new direction for the future of health care in New York, and our final budget makes solid progress toward that goal,” Assemblywoman Nolan said. “The budget will increase access to health care, protect the most vulnerable patients and reform a system that needs adjustment in a measured, prudent way.”

Expanding access to health care

Assemblywoman Nolan said improving the system starts with expanding health care coverage to New York’s 400,000 uninsured children.

“In order to provide all of New York’s children with access to affordable health care, our final budget expands eligibility for the Child Health Plus insurance program,” Assemblywoman Nolan said. “This health care budget places the focus where it should be – keeping our families healthy.”

According to Assemblywoman Nolan, this means the income threshold for the program will increase from 250 to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, or $82,650 for a family of four. (Based on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ 2007 Poverty Guidelines for the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia (http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/07poverty.shtml)

“We’re dedicated to ensuring the health of all New Yorkers,” Assemblywoman Nolan said. “Protecting children is our primary concern. That’s why this budget also streamlines enrollment for Medicaid and Family Health Plus, eliminating unnecessary red tape and helping 900,000 uninsured adults.”

Restructuring Medicaid and eliminating waste

Assemblywoman Nolan said Medicaid dollars should be spent on Medicaid recipients, not on fraudulent claims for unnecessary services – or services never rendered. The budget will eliminate wasteful spending and fraud by identifying the problem areas and committing to new solutions that work.

“The budget creates a New York State False Claims Act, which provides whistleblowers with an incentive to help root out fraud,” Assemblywoman Nolan said. In addition, the plan strengthens the Office of the Medicaid Inspector General by adding 157 new positions – including 100 auditors – and providing new powers to the State Attorney General. “These actions will save New York taxpayers billions of dollars and help restore the program to the efficient safety net it was once designed to be.”

Helping hospitals, nursing homes and health care workers

Assemblywoman Nolan said hospitals, nursing homes and other health care providers, including Wyckoff Heights, Elmhurst and New Parkway, are important allies in fighting sickness and disease. That’s why the Assembly fought to provide an additional $355.7 million ($561.6 million all funds) over the governor’s budget for hospitals, nursing homes and pharmacies. Assemblywoman Nolan continued to support the Mount Sinai Occupational Health Safety Clinic which provides services to our area.

“Everyone at these facilities wants to work together to make sure New Yorkers have access to the best care in the nation,” Assemblywoman Nolan said. “The state budget continues a significant portion of hospital and nursing home ‘trend factor,’ an important inflation adjustment that helps hospitals and nursing homes cover rising medical costs.”

Assemblywoman Nolan said this will provide $68.5 million ($137 million all funds) to hospitals and $54.5 million ($109 million all funds) to nursing homes statewide so they can continue helping patients. In addition, the final budget eliminates the “sick tax” – a burdensome 0.35 percent tax on hospital gross receipts which amounts to $136.9 million per year.

“It’s important to note that the health care reforms in this budget will shift Medicaid dollars to hospitals and nursing homes with a higher proportion of Medicaid patients – ensuring help goes to those patients who need it most,” Assemblywoman Nolan said.

The final budget also provides additional pharmacy reimbursements by restoring $17.3 million under Medicaid and $11.6 million under EPIC, a move that will help local pharmacies ensure ready access to needed medications, according to Assemblywoman Nolan. In addition, the final budget preserves the exemption for antidepressants in the Preferred Drug Program to ensure access to these necessary mental health medications.

Stem cell research

“Human stem cell research offers immeasurable promise for developing new treatments and even potential cures for many debilitating diseases,” Assemblywoman Nolan said. “Advancing stem cell research is of paramount importance.”

The state budget provides $600 million for this research, including $500 million from the conversion of a not-for-profit health insurer to a for-profit entity.

Conclusion

Assemblywoman Nolan said the budget works to build on the executive proposal – which provides a solid foundation for real health care reform.

“We’ve taken a great step forward in passing a budget that builds a stronger, more affordable health care system that puts the focus back on patients,” Assemblywoman Nolan said. “I can think of nothing more important than the health of our citizens.”