Caribbean pols welcome new healthcare initiative

Mayor Bill de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray guaranteeing primary and specialty care to 600,000 uninsured New Yorkers.
Office of the Mayor

Caribbean American legislators Councilman Jumaane Williams and Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte on Tuesday welcomed Mayor Bill de Blasio’s unveiling of “the largest, most comprehensive plan” in the United States to guarantee health care for every New Yorker, including undocumented Caribbean and other immigrants.

“I was glad to see the announcement today that the city will be moving to expand healthcare access to uninsured New Yorkers through the expansion of our public option and through the ‘NYC Care’ program,” said Williams who represents the 45th Council District in Brooklyn.

“I thank Mayor de Blasio for taking a leadership role on this all-important issue,” he added. “I have been a longtime advocate for single-payer healthcare, and as we move toward the implementation of that policy for New York State, we should do all we can to provide universal coverage in our city.”

While said that while many of the details of the plan still need to be expanded on, he was “excited by the concept of using the tools we have to expand healthcare to the 600,000 New Yorkers currently left behind.

“I am also excited that both physical and mental health are taken into consideration,” Williams said, disclosing that his family has “worked across many areas of the healthcare industry.”

He noted that “just a few years ago, when I faced a life-threatening health emergency, the work of dedicated doctors and nurses saved my life.

“All New Yorkers should have access to this kind of high quality care,” Williams said. “While the federal government is more concerned with an asinine wall than people dying because of a lack of healthcare, the city should lead the way in fulfilling the core principle that healthcare is a human right.”

Bichotte the daughter of Haitian immigrants, who represents the 42nd Assembly District in Brooklyn, said she has “seen first-hand some of the disadvantages that our healthcare system deals to people who are of a different background than their provider, be it racially, culturally, or economically.

“Everyone should have a right to affordable, safe, culturally sensitive, high quality health care regardless of their economic situations,” she said. “With NYC Care, the citizens of this great city can finally exercise that right.”

“The mayor said the plan will serve the 600,000 New Yorkers without insurance by strengthening New York City’s public health insurance option, MetroPlus, and guaranteeing anyone ineligible for insurance, including undocumented New Yorkers.

The programs will include customer-friendly call lines to help New Yorkers — regardless of their insurance — make appointments with general practitioners, cardiologists, pediatricians, gynecologists and a full spectrum of health care services, de Blasio said.

“Health care is a right, not a privilege reserved for those who can afford it,” he said. “While the federal government works to gut health care for millions of Americans, New York City is leading the way by guaranteeing that every New Yorker has access to quality, comprehensive access to care, regardless of immigration status or their ability to pay.”

“With today’s announcement of NYC Care, New York City takes another leap ahead of the rest of the nation in providing mental health services,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray, who traces her roots to Barbados and St. Lucia. “Guaranteed health care means guaranteed mental health care and alcohol/drug addiction treatment.

“No other city or state provides these comprehensive services to all residents,” she added.

The mayor said, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, eight million New Yorkers now have health insurance, adding that the uninsured rate is about nearly half of what it was in 2013.

In the last two years, he said New York City’s Public Engagement Unit coordinated signing up more than 130,000 New Yorkers for plans through the exchanges created by the law.

But de Blasio said about 600,000 New Yorkers, including many Caribbean immigrants, remain without insurance, “because they do not or cannot enroll.”

Through this new initiative, the mayor said New York City will create a “bigger, better, more comprehensive program for guaranteed health care.”

He said the city aims to better connect people to more effective and affordable health care in one of two ways.

Through NYC Care, the mayor said anyone will be able to access comprehensive care across NYC Health + Hospitals’ more than 70-plus locations, “once the program is fully ramped up.”

“NYC Care is open to anyone who does not have an affordable insurance option and will be priced on a sliding scale, to ensure affordability,” the mayor said. “NYC Care will provide a primary care doctor and will provide access to specialty care, prescription drugs, mental health services, hospitalization, and more.”

Through NYC’s Public Option, de Blasio said the city will “double down on efforts to boost enrollment in MetroPlus.

He said MetroPlus provides free or affordable health insurance that connects insurance-eligible New Yorkers to a network of providers that includes NYC Health + Hospitals’ 11 hospitals and 70 clinics.

“MetroPlus serves as an affordable, quality option for people on Medicaid, Medicare, and those purchasing insurance on the exchange,” de Blasio said.

“The city is committed to strengthening MetroPlus and connecting more independent workers, city vendors and city workers to that option.”

De Blasio said the city will also improve the quality of the MetroPlus customer experience through improved access to clinical care, mental health services, and wellness rewards for healthy behavior.

The mayor said the city is taking an “unprecedented approach” to health care services by “tackling mental and physical issues holistically.”

Through both programs, he said New Yorkers will be able to access addiction services and opioid treatment, mental health counseling, and counseling services for trauma victims.

De Blasio said New Yorkers will be able to call MetroPlus or 311 to be screened for health insurance eligibility and get connected to their best coverage option.

He said NYC Care will launch in summer 2019 and will roll out geographically, starting in the Bronx. It will be fully available to all New Yorkers across the five boroughs in 2021, the mayor said.

He said the program will cost at least US$100 million annually at full scale.

Additionally, MetroPlus will announce a series of enhancements throughout the year, the mayor said.

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