Health-care advocates said today that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature must move quickly this session — before the April 1 start of the new fiscal year — to set up health-care exchange, which is required under the federal Affordable Care Act.
The Health Care For All New York coalition released two reports today. One is on the benefits that have already taken effect under the 2010 law, such as 2.6 million New Yorkers no longer have co-payments or deductibles for preventive care; 252,300 senior citizens and people with disabilities each received a $250 rebate check to help with prescription-drug costs; and there is now a prohibition on lifetime limits in insurance policies. The second report details personal stories of families, small businesses, senior citizens and students who have benefited under the federal law.
Advocates said they are buoyed by the mention of creating a health-care exchange in a book Cuomo released in conjunction with his State of the State address yesterday. The governor said legislation to set up an exchange must be passed now.
“I will tell you that our coalition is deeply gratified to see the health-insurance exchange as a priority in 2012, but we have to remember that this is unfinished business,” Sherry Tomasky, legislative campaign director for the American Cancer Society of New York and New Jersey, said during a news conference in Albany. “This is not a brand-new initiative. And while we are grateful to see that this is put on the list of things that the administration intends to do, this was unfinished from 2011, and in the final days of session, a negotiated bill failed to pass the Senate, and so it put us many, many months behind schedule.”
A deal between the governor and Legislature to pass the bill last year broke down at the last minute after some members of the Senate GOP majority balked at setting up what they call “Obamacare.” Challenges to the law are making their way through the federal court system, and it is expected that the case ultimately will go to the Supreme Court.
All states have to have exchanges in place by Jan. 1, 2014. However, the federal government will intervene and set up exchanges in states that don’t have viable systems set up by Jan. 1, 2013.
“That does not give us a lot of time. In fact it gives us not enough time to operate an exchange in the state and therefore Health Care For All New York is calling on the Legislature and the governor to enact establishing legislation for the health-insurance exchange as soon as possible,” Tomasky said. “It needs to be done immediately and it cannot be done any later than the budget process, which concludes on April 1.”
According to the governor, nearly 16 percent of New Yorkers under 65 — 2.7 million people — are uninsured. Most are members of working families.The federal government will finance the establishment of an exchange, which will cover more than one million New Yorkers, the Cuomo book said. People who currently pay for individual coverage would see their cost drop by 66 percent, and small businesses would pay 22 percent less, it said.
“The $1.7 billion that taxpayers currently contribute to offset the cost of providing care to the uninsured will be significantly reduced. The increased federal Medicaid match that recognizes New York’s higher Medicaid eligibility levels will bring an additional $18 billion in funds to the state over 10 years,” it said.