By DIANE S. WILLIAMS
As the December 31 deadline fast approaches, a coalition of health-care activists, elected leaders and working men and women call for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign a bill that would give safety-net hospitals a fairer share of funds to care for the neediest New Yorkers.
“Local 1549 and DC 37 have been on the frontlines fighting for decades to preserve and protect public hospitals in New York,” said Eddie Rodriguez, president of Local 1549 and District Council 37.
“We urge all union members, members of the community and patients to tell the governor to sign this critical safety-net legislation that would increase funds for public hospitals and insure that our communities continue to receive vital health-care services,” Rodriquez said.
The grassroots coalition held a press conference at Harlem Hospital Nov. 15, urging the governor to enact the enhanced safety-net hospital bill (A9476A/S.6948-A).
“We are asking the governor to stand with us and sign the bill!” said Jackie Rowe Adams, a Harlem activist and Local 299 president. The crowd of health-care workers, doctors, nurses and activists chanted, “Governor Cuomo, sign the bill!”
DC 37 spearheaded a campaign and collected over 15,000 signatures urging Gov. Cuomo to pass the safety-net hospital bill. The union has made it a hot topic on its radio and television shows and social media with #SafetyNetHospitals and #SOSHospitals.
Last spring, the New York State Assembly and Senate unanimously passed the bill, which defines safety-net hospitals in a way that creates a chance for a more equitable funding formula for public hospitals from Buffalo to Brooklyn.
The bill opens the way for a fairer share of state and federal Medicaid funding to reach public hospitals. Currently, private hospitals take the lion’s share of these funds.
“NYU Langone gets $50 more per patient than Bellevue Hospital does, but it hardly treats the poor,” said Judy Wessler, a longtime health-care advocate and former director of the Commission on the Public Health System.
Although NYC Health + Hospitals treats 60 percent of the state’s uninsured, poor and elderly, it is guaranteed just 3 percent of the $3.5 billion Albany allocates yearly for the charity care fund, which covers costs of care for the uninsured.
The legislation clearly defines safety net hospitals as public hospitals, federally-designated critical access or sole community hospitals. It would raise reimbursements for hospitals where at least 50 percent of the patients receive Medicare or are uninsured.
“It only makes sense for the money to follow the patient,” said Henry Garrido, DC 37 executive director. “This gives more Medicaid funding to hospitals, like New York City’s H+H system, that treat high volumes of Medicaid and uninsured patients.
“If Governor Cuomo signs this bill, we’ll be that much closer to improving health care for everyone in our state,” Garrido said, “regardless of whether they live in urban or rural communities.”
DC 37, whose members are H+H employees in Locals 371, 420, 768, 1407, 1549, and 2627, stands with the New York State Nurses Association, the Doctors Council, CWA 1180, the Commission on the Public Health System, the Committee of Interns and Residents and the New York Immigration Coalition. Public Advocate Letitia James, Comptroller Scott Stringer and other city and state leaders also support the bill.
Please tell Governor Andrew Cuomo ‘Sign the bill!’ Call 518 474-8390 or 212 681 4573.