October 2017 Issue
October 24, 2017

NYSUT plans major push to protect hospitals, kids from health care cuts

Author: By Ned Hoskin
Source: NYSUT United

State university hospitals and other public facilities that provide the vast majority of health care to New York's indigent and uninsured could lose hundreds of millions in funding if Congress does not renew the "disproportionate share hospitals" (DSH) payments that expired Oct. 1.

The Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) also expired with the start of the new fiscal year. Both programs were scheduled for phaseout on the assumption that the 2010 Affordable Care Act would eliminate the need for them.

SUNY hospitals could see millions in cuts now, and tens of millions more through 2025.

"These cuts would deal a devastating blow to the high-quality, affordable care provided daily by the state's public hospitals in SUNY," said Frederick E. Kowal, president of United University Professions, which represents more than 15,000 members at SUNY hospitals.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he might call the Legislature into a special session to balance the cuts in federal funding. That could mean further cuts to chronically underfunded SUNY hospitals, and possible cuts across the board, including education aid.

However, Cuomo also said federal action to renew these programs would relieve the need for drastic action before the next legislative session opens in January. It could happen. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, believe they have a deal with President Trump to work out a new federal spending plan that would solve the health care problems before the end of the year.

Should state lawmakers return to Albany this fall, NYSUT "will pull out all the stops to ensure the Legislature and governor do the right thing," said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta.

If the Legislature reconvenes, NYSUT political action coordinators will use in-district lobby days, phone banks, letter-writing campaigns and more to urge lawmakers to protect the state's most vulnerable citizens and not to eviscerate other budget lines that are also as important.

The DSH funding is disbursed as a federal match to state funding. In a memo explaining that the state recently released some of its funding share, the Department of Health said, "the state's immediate objectives on managing federal cuts to the DSH program are to provide each participating hospital a fair allocation and to assure each hospital's financial stability."

Similarly, CHIP, the 20-year-old program that keeps kids healthy and ready to learn, was due to be re-authorized by Sept. 30, but Congress let it expire and funding will run out soon.

Nearly half a million children across the state rely on CHIP for routine checkups, immunizations, medicine, dental care and eyeglasses. Without these services, these kids and more than 8 million others around the U.S. could go to school sick or unable to read or engage because they need glasses or are sick.

"Children can't learn if their health needs are not being properly met," said AFT President Randi Weingarten. She urged congressional leaders to renew the program.

Although the ACA helped reduce the number of uninsured in New York and the U.S. by approximately half, it didn't reach the level anticipated in 2010. The need for these programs is still critical, Pallotta said.