Advocacy groups, non-profits, others, applaud New York City’s new initiative for uninsured, undocumented

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Mayor Bill de Blasio held a town hall in Jackson Heights on March 28. (Courtesy of New York City Mayoral Photography Office)

NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced his administration will launch the largest, most comprehensive plan in the nation to guarantee health care for every New Yorker, including the undocumented.

According to a press release from the Mayor, the plan seeks to cover the 600,000 New Yorkers without insurance by strengthening NYC’s public health insurance option, MetroPlus. It also guarantees anyone ineligible for insurance – including undocumented New Yorkers, and provides direct access to NYC Health + Hospitals’ physicians, pharmacies and mental health and substance abuse services through a new program called NYC Care.

All services will be affordable on a sliding scale, the de Blasio administration promises. 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.

“Health care is a right, not a privilege reserved for those who can afford it,” de Blasio is quoted saying in the press release. “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.”

Once the NYC Care program is fully ramped-up, it will be open to anyone who does not have an affordable insurance option and will provide a primary care doctor and provide access to specialty care, prescription drugs, mental health services, hospitalization, and more.

The administration hopes to double down on its efforts to enroll more New Yorkers in its MetroPlus public option for health care.

NYC Care plans to launch in summer 2019 and will roll out geographically, starting in the Bronx, and is expected to be fully available to all New Yorkers across the five boroughs in 2021. The program will cost at least $100 million annually at full scale, the administration estimates. Additionally, MetroPlus will announce a series of enhancements throughout the year.

Bhairavi Desai, founder and executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, with members of NYTWA at a rally in August 2018. (Photo: NYTWA Facebook)

Indian-American activist, Bhairavi Desai, executive director of 21,000-member New York Taxi Workers Alliance which represents yellow, green, App, livery and black car drivers, praised the plan saying it could transform New York City into a global city leading the country in common sense and compassion.

“Most of New York City’s professional drivers already rely on Health and Hospitals clinics and hospitals for primary care and emergency services.  This initiative can fill voids that still exist in access to care and will be a lifeline for New Yorkers who, like many of our members, don’t qualify for Medicaid but still can’t afford premiums. And it will finally allow our undocumented neighbors access to much-needed healthcare services,” Desai is quoted saying in the press release.

The advocacy organization, Make the Road to New York, called the plan a “big step” in ensuring health services to all New Yorkers regardless of immigration status.

“Immigrants in particular are faced with huge barriers to healthcare and we have yet to see significant action at the state and federal level to ensure access to coverage for all of the uninsured. We look forward to working with Mayor de Blasio to implement NYC Cares and ensure access to H+H options and insurance, if eligible,” Rebecca Telzak, Director of Health Programs at Make the Road New York, is quoted saying.

 “For too long, too many, particularly women low-wage workers, have not had access to health care. This is an inspiring and extremely practical model for every city in the nation,” said Ai-jen Poo, Executive Director, National Domestic Workers Alliance.

Manuel Castro, executive director of New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE), applauded the plan. “Affordable, high-quality healthcare for immigrant workers is essential to our city’s thriving, and no one knows that better NICE members who work in some of the most dangerous, unregulated sectors of our economy, like construction and domestic work,” Castro said.

“All people, regardless of their income or immigration status, deserve access to high-quality health care. Period. We applaud Mayor Bill de Blasio for launching NYC Care to ensure that all New Yorkers can access health care, including preventive care, gynecological care, mental health care and other services,” said Laura McQuade, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood of New York City.

Several other non-profit activist organizations also expressed support and appreciation for the plan.

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