April 4 – Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee (D-Suffern) said that the final 2008-2009 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. It also includes an impressive list of important reforms and initiatives – providing New Yorkers with one of the best health budgets New York has had in many years.
“We had to make some difficult choices while drafting this year's budget,” said Jaffee, “but making affordable, reliable health care available to New Yorkers is a priority, so we've done everything we can to make sure we protect and improve our health care facilities and programs.”
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.
Highlights from the 2008-2009 include:
- Child Health Plus expansion – Last year, New York raised the income eligibility level for Child Health Plus from 250% of poverty to 400%, but that required Federal matching funds, which the Bush Administration refused to do. This year's budget removes that requirement. The state will pay the full cost, and tens of thousands of children will have health coverage.
- Prescription discount card – There will be a new prescription drug discount card for income-eligible New Yorkers who have no prescription drug coverage. The discounts will come from the state using its bargaining clout with drug companies, not taxpayer dollars. Availability is limited to those New Yorkers who have a serious disability or are between 50 and 64 years old. The Assembly will continue to fight to expand eligibility, which will improve the state's bargaining power to get bigger discounts.
- EPIC – 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.
- Primary and preventive care – The 2008-2009 health budget begins to shift resources from costly, in-patient care to more cost-effective primary and preventive care. Medicaid payments will increase for community health centers; physician, dentist, and other office-based care; school health centers; family planning clinics; and hospital out-patient clinics, among others. Payments will be based on the degree of services provided instead of a flat rate per visit, which will be phased in over three years.
- Restoration of funding to health care facilities – 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. 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.
- Doctors Across New York – New York will offer to repay a new physician's medical school loans if he or she practices for five years in an under-served area in primary care or certain shortage specialties. The Health Department will study expanding the program to include dentists, midwives, nurse practitioners, and physician's assistants and report back to the Legislature later this year.
“This year's health budget is a comprehensive package aimed at helping working families,” said Jaffee. “The health of New York's most vulnerable residents should never be compromised because of economic constraints. While there are some shortcomings, this year's budget represents a huge stride toward making quality health care affordable for every New Yorker who wants it.”