Jacobs Says Assembly Budget Focuses on Improving Access to Quality, Affordable Health Care

March 12, 2008
Assemblywoman Rhoda Jacobs (D-Flatbush) announced that the Assembly’s $49.5 billion health care budget proposal increases access to health care, protects the most vulnerable patients and reforms the state’s health care system. It invests $378.1 million on an all-funds basis over the executive budget.

“Improving New York’s health care system requires adopting a smart, multi-pronged approach to solving our health care problems,” said Jacobs. “This year’s health budget will help provide tools and services that will improve the health care system and ensure quality care for more New Yorkers.”

Hospitals and Health Care Workers

The Assembly’s budget provides $180.8 million to hospitals statewide, augmenting the executive’s hospital reforms by providing an additional $122.4 million in an effort to delay hospital reimbursement initiatives until Jan. 1, 2009, as well as delaying and phasing in over the next 4 years the changes related to reimbursement of hospital detox services, Jacobs said.

The Assembly completely restores $52.4 million the executive budget cut from workforce recruitment and retention funds for hospitals and non-hospital clinics.

“Hospitals and other health care providers are important allies in protecting the health of the public. We need to protect and enhance the critical services these institutions provide – without them, patients won’t get the care they need,” said Jacobs.

Preserving Long-Term Care at Home

“Home health care is vital to helping elderly and disabled people remain in the community and avoid expensive institutional care. That’s why the Assembly restores $48 million of the executive budget’s $90 million cut in long-term care.”

The Assembly’s restoration includes rejecting a Certified Home Health Agency rate freeze of $6 million, as well as rolling back part of the executive’s rate cap reduction for a restoration of $10 million, and making sure we exempt certain patient care related costs from calculations, a restoration of $20 million.

Child Health Plus

The Assembly is again this year pushing to increase the threshold for the Child Health Plus insurance program from 250 to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, which would provide all of New York’s children with access to affordable health care.

“Unfortunately, last year the Bush Administration rejected this proposed expansion, and, as a result, there was no federal funding available to implement these important changes,” said Jacobs. “The Assembly’s health care budget places the focus where it should be – on keeping our families healthy. We reject the executive budget’s plan to increase Child Health Plus co-pays to the tune of $24 million statewide. Now is not the time to be raising health care premiums. By taking this important step, our children’s health won’t be jeopardized simply because their parents bring home a smaller paycheck than others, and the program will remain an affordable option for those who need it.”

Making Prescription Drugs Affordable and Available

Assistant Speaker Jacobs said the Assembly’s budget includes a new discount card to make drug savings available to financially vulnerable uninsured individuals, regardless of age. This will help to make prescriptions more affordable for those without drug coverage.

In addition, the Assembly rejects the executive budget proposal to make EPIC drugs – which are not covered by Medicare Part D – subject to prior authorization, restoring $15.4 million of the $18.5 million cut, ensuring that seniors can continue to get the medications they need without facing unnecessary obstacles.

“Prescription drug assistance is very important for people living in the margins, and the Assembly wholeheartedly supports New York using its purchasing power to help residents save money on their prescriptions,” Jacobs said.

Expanding the Doctors Across New York Program

Doctors Across New York provides a new tuition-loan repayment program that encourages doctors to establish or join practices in medically underserved rural and inner-city areas. The Assembly’s budget, according to Jacobs, expands the Doctors Across New York plan to include dentists, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and midwives and will provide grants and enhanced reimbursement to encourage more health professionals to serve the state’s regions in need.

“Increasing the number of health care professionals will help deliver quality health care to New Yorkers who previously had little or no access to the treatment they needed,” Jacobs said. “The Assembly’s budget improves upon the executive budget’s Doctors Across New York plan.”

Anti-depressants and the Medicaid Preferred Drug Program

The Assembly rejects the executive budget’s recommendation to eliminate the exemption for anti-depressants from the Preferred Drug Program to save $10 million and keeps anti-depressants in the program so that patients are assured of access to the particular medication that they need. PDP promotes the use of less expensive, equally effective prescription drugs when medically appropriate.

“Mental health treatment is vital,” noted Jacobs. “Anti-depressant medications are critical to the health of thousands upon thousands of New Yorkers, and we need to ensure that they have access to the medicine they need to live healthy, fulfilling lives.”

Pharmacy Reimbursements

The executive’s budget recommends cutting the pharmacy reimbursement rate for brand name drugs to Average Wholesale Price less 17 percent. The Assembly’s budget restores the pharmacy reimbursement rate for brand name drugs on the Preferred Drug List to the AWP less 14 percent, saving pharmacies $16.5 million.

Extending the Health Care Reform Act (HCRA)

The Assembly’s budget extends HCRA for three years, through March 31, 2011. HCRA, which is scheduled to expire on March 31, 2008, supports nearly $5 billion in costs for critical health care programs, including graduate medical education, indigent care, Child Heath Plus, Family Health Plus, EPIC and stem cell research.

Improving Mental Health programs

According to Jacobs, the Assembly’s budget includes $2.5 million to help address geriatric mental health and chemical dependency issues. This includes $2 million in additional funding for general mental health services, and $500,000 for new programs that provide substance abuse treatment for seniors. In addition, $500,000 is earmarked for new grants to support elderly abuse education and outreach programs in communities throughout the state.

Maintaining the Integrity of the Medicaid program

“Significant strides have been made to strengthen the anti-fraud capabilities of the Office of the Medicaid Inspector General,” Jacobs said.

The Assembly’s budget provides additional resources for the OMIG to perform its critical anti-fraud duties, providing for increased staffing and additional technology.

“The Assembly’s proposal works to build on the executive’s plan, which provides a solid foundation for real health care reform and allows the greatest access to quality, affordable health care that New York has ever seen. I look forward to working with the executive and Senate on a budget that improves the overall health of our state,” concluded Jacobs.