Colton to Gov: Declare Public Health Emergency

Brooklyn legislator calls on Governor Pataki (R-NY) to extend the seven day executive order to provide emergency health coverage to individuals amid Medicare 'D'saster, which is set to expire tomorrow, January 20, 2006.
January 19, 2006

Urging Governor Pataki to extend his executive order of January 13, 2006 ordering the NYS Health Department to pay the cost of prescriptions drugs for individuals eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid, which is set to expire this Saturday, Assemblymember William Colton (D-Brooklyn) is prepared to declare a public health emergency in New York State. "There is no way this Medicare 'D'saster is going to be resolved in seven days," charged Brooklyn Assemblyman William Colton.

"Over 500,000 people, eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid, in New York State are without coverage and are being denied access to prescriptions vital to their health," charged Colton. "What makes this even more of a crisis is that these are individuals typically who have low-income and are chronically ill. From heart disease to cancer patients, people who desperately need prescriptions are facing the brunt of irresponsible and reckless federal policy," the lawmaker went on to say.

As of January 1, 2006, the federal government mandated that all individuals covered by Medicaid must convert coverage to Medicare. However, with numerous computer glitches and backup problems, over half a million people in New York State have not been able to fill their vital prescription drugs since January 1, according to the Medicare Rights Center. Patients, physicians, and pharmacies have all complained about the chaotic confusion and health crisis taking place during the federal mandated health care conversion.

The New York State Assembly recently passed an emergency bill called for by the Chairman of the Health Committee, Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) that would permanently cover all individuals that have fallen victim to the federal government's inept health coverage conversion until all the problems are resolved. Assemblymember Colton was a proud co-sponsor of the bill and stated, "We are in a health crisis and this is the least that we can do to help assist people in this time of chaos. I strongly urge the New York State Senate to sign on to this legislation and get it onto the Governor's desk for his signature. This is the time when elected officials put aside partisan politics and understand the severity of the situation."

As the NYS Senate discusses the legislation, Colton said there is no time to waste and is urging Governor Pataki to immediately extend his seven day executive order calling upon the NYS Health Department to pay the health coverage cost for individuals eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid, which is set to expire tomorrow, January 20, 2006. "People who suffer from cancer or heart disease or other severe health ailments cannot wait a second more for government to act. Therefore, it is time for Governor Pataki to declare a public health emergency and extend the executive order until this chaos is resolved," asserted Colton.

The Brooklyn legislator also believes that the costs inferred upon the state due to the Medicare fiasco should be placed on the federal tab. "Let us first get these people covered, but then states, including New York, must demand that the federal government pay for its inept and incompetent health care policy," the Assemblymember said.

Other states that have taken similar emergency measures are Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and Vermont. In each of the states, governors either signed emergency legislation or signed executive orders ordering their health departments to cover all affected individuals.