Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny: Assembly Budget Proposal Focuses on Patient Care

Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny (D-Coney Island, Dyker Heights) said the Assembly's budget proposal aims to build on Governor Spitzer's goal to improve overall health care and focus on the most important issue - patient care.

"By investing $483.3 million more we can increase access to health care, protect the most vulnerable patients and reform a system that needs adjustment in a measured, prudent way," Assemblyman Brook-Krasny said. "The governor's executive budget provided a new direction for the future of health care in New York, and our proposal directs even more funds to that goal."

Assemblyman Brook-Krasny said federal proposals, including the Bush Administration's ill-managed Medicare Part-D program and misguided health care cuts, have consistently come up short in addressing patient needs.

"We must keep working to ensure quality, affordable health care is available for all New Yorkers," Assemblyman Brook-Krasny said. "We look forward to working together with the governor and Senate on a budget that improves the overall health of our state - starting with the health care delivery system."

Expanding access to health care

Assemblyman Brook-Krasny said improving the system starts with an unwavering commitment to restructuring Medicaid costs and insuring New York's 400,000 uninsured children.

"In order to provide all of New York's children with access to affordable health care, our budget proposal includes the governor's plan to expand eligibility for the Child Health Plus insurance program," Assemblyman Brook-Krasny said. "This would increase eligibility for Child Health Plus from 250 percent to 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level."

According to Assemblyman Brook-Krasny, this means the income threshold for the program will be $82,650 for a family of four,1 and that low-income families will not have their children's health penalized simply because the family brings home a smaller paycheck than others.

"The Assembly is dedicated to ensuring the health of future generations of New Yorkers," Assemblyman Brook-Krasny said. "Protecting children is our primary concern. We also support streamlining the recertification process for Medicaid and Family Health Plus, eliminating unnecessary red tape and providing 12 months of continuous coverage for adults in these programs."

In addition, the Assembly is also committed to new outreach and education initiatives through the Department of Health and Department of Aging to assist Baby Boomers during important, upcoming health care transitions.

Restructuring Medicaid and eliminating waste

Assemblyman Brook-Krasny said Medicaid dollars should be spent on Medicaid recipients, not on fraudulent claims for unnecessary services - or services never rendered. The Assembly plans to restructure Medicaid to eliminate wasteful spending and fraud by identifying the problem areas and committing to new solutions that work.

"I support the governor's plan to strengthen the Office of the Medicaid Inspector General and create a New York State False Claims Act," Assemblyman Brook-Krasny said, adding that this proposal includes 157 new positions - including 100 auditors - to the Medicaid Inspector General and new powers to the State Attorney General to root out and combat fraud and abuse. "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."

But Assemblyman Brook-Krasny cautioned that a restructuring of this magnitude must ensure no one is left behind or shortchanged. He said health care costs for Brooklyn can - and must - be balanced without harming patients or dedicated workers.

"By examining where our health care system needs the most assistance, we can turn our problems around and institute real reform," Assemblyman Brook-Krasny said. He added the Assembly budget goes one step further than the governor's in reforming New York's health care system by creating two new health care commissions, including:

  • The Commission on Health Care Delivery Reform, which will study and recommend new mechanisms for financing health care; and

  • The Commission on Universal Health Care, which will study and report on recommendations for providing universal health care in New York State.

Helping hospitals, nursing homes and health care workers

Assemblyman Brook-Krasny said hospitals, nursing homes and other health care providers, including Coney Island, are the Assembly's most important allies in fighting sickness and disease.

"Everyone at these facilities wants to work together to make sure New Yorkers have access to the best care in the nation," Assemblyman Brook-Krasny said. "We've modified the governor's budget to restore the hospital and nursing home 'trend factor,' since we need to keep this important 2.5 percent inflation adjustment so hospitals and nursing homes can cover rising medical costs."

Assemblyman Brook-Krasny said this will provide $182.6 million to hospitals and $145.4 million to nursing homes statewide so they can continue helping patients. In addition, the Assembly budget eliminates the "sick tax" - a burdensome 0.35 percent tax on hospital gross receipts which amounts to $136.9 million per year - and allows it to sunset later this month, as intended.

"Health care workers play a crucial role in delivering quality health care to patients across the state," Assemblyman Brook-Krasny said. "Without them, patients won't get the care they need, so the Assembly is committed to providing Brooklyn with its fair share of state health care funding."

And the Assembly is also committed to keeping pharmacy reimbursements adequate by restoring $34.6 million under Medicaid and $10.6 million under EPIC, a move that will help local pharmacies ensure ready access to needed medications, according to Assemblyman Brook-Krasny. In addition, the Assembly 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," Assemblyman Brook-Krasny said. "We agree with the governor that advancing stem cell research is of paramount importance."

The Assembly proposes to fund this research through HCRA by reserving $500 million in proceeds from the conversion of a not-for-profit health insurer to a for-profit entity.

"This funding structure is crucial to making medical advancements and provides the most flexible support for research and laboratory operating costs," Assemblyman Brook-Krasny said.

Assemblyman Brook-Krasny said the Assembly budget proposal works to build on the executive proposal - which provides a solid foundation for real health care reform.

"We look forward to passing a budget that builds a stronger, more affordable health care system that puts the focus back on patients," Assemblyman Brook-Krasny said. "I can think of nothing more important than the health of our citizens."

1   Based on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' 2007 Poverty Guidelines for the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia (