January 9, 2019

New York City seeks to guarantee health care to every resident—including undocumented immigrants

Daily Briefing

    New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) on Tuesday announced that the city this summer will launch an initiative to provide comprehensive health coverage for undocumented immigrants and other residents who do not qualify for health insurance.

    Details on the plan

    The plan, called NYC Care will expand the city's existing public coverage option, MetroPlus, which is a safety-net public health insurance plan run by city hospitals, to more residents.

    MetroPlus currently covers about 516,000 individuals, and NYC Care is expected to cover 600,000 currently uninsured residents.

    According to a release from the city, the goal of NYC Care is to "guarantee[e] anyone ineligible for insurance—including undocumented New Yorkers—has direct access to NYC Health + Hospitals' physicians, pharmacies, and mental health and substance abuse services."

    Eric Phillips, a spokesperson for the mayor, in a tweet explained, "This is the city paying for direct comprehensive care (not just [EDs]) for people who can't afford it, or can't get comprehensive Medicaid."

    NYC Care will be a hybrid of insurance and direct spending, according to the New York Times. Payment will be determined on a sliding scale, based on patients' ability to pay, according to the release.

    The program is expected to cost about $100 million to cover annually, the release said. According to the mayor, the program will not require tax increases for funding.

    "We'll put the money in to make it work; it's going to save us money down the line," de Blasio said. "We're already paying an exorbitant amount to pay for health care the wrong way when what we should be doing is helping them get the primary care."

    NYC Care will launch this summer, and the city will work geographically to implement the program. It will start in the Bronx and is expected to be available to residents throughout the city in 2021. MetroPlus will announce several enhancements throughout the year, according to the release.

    Comments

    Mitchell Katz, president and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals, and de Blasio both drew attention to the size and scope of the effort.

    Mitchell said, "NYC Care will be the biggest and most comprehensive health coverage program in the country." He added, "Building on the great work of our doctors, nurses and staff, and working collaboratively with community partners, NYC Health + Hospitals will help give all New Yorkers the quality care they deserve."

    De Blasio noted, "This has never been done in the country in a comprehensive way." He added, "Health care isn't just a right in theory, it must be a right in practice. And we're doing that here in this city."

    Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot touted the potential to reduce health disparities. "Expanding access to care is a key step in eliminating health disparities in our city," he said (Goodman, New York Times, 1/8; Wise, The Hill, 1/8; NBC New York, 1/8; New York City release, 1/8).

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