Statewide coalition of nearly 140 groups urges legislature to remove Gov’s Medicaid proposal from the budget

Medicaid Budget Proposal Would Jeopardize Care for New York’s Most Vulnerable 

By David Fagan

More than 5.5 million New Yorkers rely on Medicaid managed care health plans for their care. Many of these members are among the state’s most at-risk residents, with multiple health conditions that require coordination of numerous services.  This includes both physical health and mental health care, long-term services and supports, as well as help coordinating social services, such as housing, employment, education, and food access.

Our sister organizations, R.A.I.N. Home Attendant Services, Inc. and R.A.I.N., Inc, are a multi-social service agency offering an array of services that focus on providing a continuum of care for seniors and people with disabilities. We’ve been doing this work since 1965. These New Yorkers are our neighbors and part of the community we serve. That’s why we are concerned about a provision in the Governor’s proposed state budget for the upcoming fiscal year to reduce the number of health plans in the Medicaid program – allowing no fewer than two but no more than five in each region of the state.  This will take away choices from patients, create havoc in the delivery system, and undercut efforts to promote health equity.    Hundreds of thousands of individuals will be forced out of their current plan, disrupting their care and potentially forcing them to switch providers.

We fear that it will make it harder for the people in our community to get the services they need. The state should not make it more difficult for New Yorkers with complex health conditions to get the care they need by forcing them to change doctors if their current plan is eliminated under this proposal.

The proposal also runs counter to the state’s goal of promoting health equity.  Minority and underserved populations have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.  Taking options away from Medicaid members doesn’t just threaten the ability of providers to support their patients but will undercut efforts to address racial and ethnic disparities in care.  New York’s Medicaid program has been a national leader in improving quality and health care outcomes.  The challenges this proposal will cause to coordinate care has the potential to threaten those efforts.

While hospitalizations and infection rates due to COVID continue to decline, too many of us are still trying to recover from the havoc the pandemic caused.  Medicaid has played an important role in providing a safety net in the middle of a global health crisis, but taking options away from patients diminishes that support.  The state shouldn’t be making it harder for New Yorkers to get the care they need or placing further strain on providers and community groups who’ve been there for patients by disrupting the health care system after the last two years they’ve faced.  Further, the proposal will not produce any savings in the upcoming budget and will save less than 1% of the total Medicaid budget in fiscal year 2024.

It is more important than ever to protect the choices available for vulnerable New Yorkers who rely on the Medicaid program.  Considering the level of disruption the proposal will cause for patients and the providers they’ve come to know and trust, the Governor and Legislature should drop this policy proposal from the state budget.

David Fagan, MSHA, MSL, is Executive Director of R.A.I.N. Home Attendant Services, Inc.

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