Assemblywoman Rhoda Jacobs (D-Flatbush) announced the final state budget reverses some damaging cuts in health care, restoring approximately $1.3 billion to protect the most vulnerable patients and ensure working families have access to quality health care. In addition, the 2009-10 budget begins permanent health care reimbursement reforms and investments that will lead to $1.6 billion in savings this year and billions more in future years.
“We are in the midst of the worst economic crisis in recent history, and we’ve had to make tough choices – but the health of New Yorkers can’t be compromised,” Jacobs said. “We’ve worked hard to protect our health care facilities and programs in this budget so working families will continue to have access to quality health care.”
Helping Hospitals & Nursing Homes
Hospitals and nursing homes are New York’s most important allies in combating sickness and disease – as well as ensuring the needs of our elderly population are met. According to Jacobs, that’s why the Assembly fought to ensure our health care facilities continue to be able to provide the quality care that is needed to treat and care for our most vulnerable populations.
The Assembly health budget restores millions of dollars to New York’s health care facilities by rejecting $361.6 million in executive cuts to hospitals and $195.6 million to nursing homes.
Jacobs said it was essential for the Assembly to make substantial changes to the hospital reimbursement system proposed by the executive. The enacted budget provides significant restorations for academic medical centers and primary care hospitals as well as valuable safety net providers, Jacobs added.
Health Care Workers
“As the state’s health system continues to evolve and change, the need for skilled health care workers increases,” said Jacobs. “That is why the Assembly rejected the executive’s proposal to eliminate funding for the Worker Retraining Program. When possible, a skilled health care worker should be given the opportunity to be retrained in alternative, high-need health care professions before they face the unemployment line.”
EPIC & Medicare Part D Coverage
The budget restores $49.9 million to the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC) program – which is designed to lower prescription drug costs for seniors with fixed incomes – and $2.8 million to the Medicaid program to restore “wrap around” coverage for drugs denied by Medicare Part D.
“We need to ensure all seniors have access to affordable prescription drugs. Without access to their prescriptions, many seniors will needlessly end up in the hospital or emergency room,” said Jacobs.
In addition to these EPIC and Medicaid restorations, the budget rejects $30.5 million in additional reductions to pharmacy benefits and programs, and accepts the following proposals:
- Changes to the Supplemental Rebate Program and the Drug Utilization Review Program to ensure patient protections by providing the same “physician prevails” protections that currently apply to the Preferred Drug Program;
- Coverage for brand name drugs when they are less costly than generics; and
- Requirement that EPIC enrollees join a Medicare savings plan if they are eligible and provide EPIC reimbursement for mail order pharmacies.
Preserving & Expanding Long-Term Care at Home
According to Ms. Jacobs, home health agencies are already surviving on lean budgets. That is why the budget rejects $132.8 million in reductions proposed by the executive, including:
- $64.6 million for Medicaid rate reductions, rejecting across-the-board cuts to home and personal care; and
- $48.7 million to preserve the amounts providers spend on administrative expenses so more dollars could be invested into the system in order to care for patients.
“Home health care is vital to helping elderly and disabled people remain in the community and avoid expensive institutional care,” said Jacobs. “Cuts of this magnitude would have a direct negative impact on home patient care – we cannot allow the health and safety of patients to suffer because of tough economic times.”
To put the needs of our aging population front and center, and to preserve the quality of life for seniors, the budget will phase out 6,000 nursing home beds over five years to make way for 6,000 beds in Assisted Living Programs to provide elderly individuals with an alternative to nursing home services, Jacobs said.
“Rather than place patients in a nursing home, assisted-living programs allow individuals who need assistance from a nurse or medical professional to receive superior care in a less-intensive setting,” said Jacobs. “The Assembly will continue to pursue ways to ensure important programs continue to exist that offer patients the quality of life they deserve.”
Early Intervention Program
The Early Intervention Program (EIP) offers a variety of free therapeutic and support services to infants and toddlers with disabilities or developmental delays. To ensure these children and their families receive needed services and treatment, the budget rejects all executive changes to EIP – including changes that would have exempted children with certain speech-only delays from participation, and established parental and provider fees for participation, noted Jacobs.
Lead Poisoning Prevention
The budget provides investment dollars for the enhancement of lead poisoning prevention activities, including increased monitoring of blood lead levels in children to help prevent and mitigate the harmful effects of lead exposure.
“Times are tough and tough choices need to be made – but we cannot balance a budget by compromising the health of working families. The budget ensures New Yorkers have access to quality, affordable health care and makes no recipient cuts,” concluded Jacobs.