Coalition of Healthcare Unions, Community Organizations, Faith Leaders, and Hospital/Nursing Home Leaders Join Bi-Partisan State Legislators Calling For Governor Kathy Hochul to Address New York’s Dire Healthcare Funding Crisis

February 9, 2024

1199SEIU Logo 1@3x.pngPress Release: February 9, 2024
Contact: April Ezzell, (716) 449-1620
1199SEIU Communications

Photos & Video:  Medicaid Equity Now Press Conf 02092024

0209image002.jpgCommunity Coalition kick-off event in Governor's hometown adds to growing chorus of hospitals, health care workers, legislators, community, and faith leaders demanding fully funded Medicaid Health Insurance Program



A portion of New York’s huge, unprecedented reserves must be used to close the Medicaid Health Insurance funding gap, save struggling hospitals and nursing homes, prevent slashing of maternity and mental health services, and protect low-income seniors, children, families and people with disabilities

Buffalo, New York – Today, Erie and Niagara County State legislators held a press conference with a coalition of healthcare unions, community organizations, faith leaders, and hospital and nursing home leaders to demand that Governor Kathy Hochul address New York’s dire healthcare funding crisis by fully funding Medicaid Health Insurance reimbursements for hospitals and nursing homes. 

City and County officials from Erie and Niagara County attended today’s press conference alongside State Senate and Assemblymembers including New York State Assemblymember and Majority Leader Crystal People’s Stokes who later said: “Today, Western New Yorkers from all different walks of life came together with a clear call to action for reducing health disparities. Only by properly funding WNY hospitals and nursing homes can we begin to address a crisis that plagues communities of color. We must act now to keep our hospitals and nursing homes open and operational. We cannot afford to fall further behind,” said People-Stokes.

In Erie County, nearly a third of residents rely on Medicaid for their healthcare. Even though Medicaid provides vital health insurance coverage to these New Yorkers, the state pays hospitals 30% less than the actual cost of care hospitals provide. Without sufficient funding, many hospitals, such as Eastern Niagara Hospital, cannot invest in programs or infrastructure that benefit the patients and communities they serve. In the Buffalo region in particular hospitals and nursing homes continue to face overcrowding and bed shortages due to the persistent underfunding of Medicaid. 

“Millions of our fellow New Yorkers depend on Medicaid for their healthcare, including seniors, people with disabilities and children right here in Western New York,” said New York State Senator Patrick M. Gallivan.  “As a state, we need to ensure Medicaid reimbursement rates cover the actual cost of care. The alternative is devastating cuts to services and programs, including hospitals and nursing homes right here in Erie County. It’s time to fix Medicaid underpayments now,” said Senator Gallivan. 

"Our healthcare workers pour their hearts into their work, whether they're giving world-class care to our seniors in a nursing home, or saving the life of a trauma patient in the hospital, or ensuring that our medical facilities run smoothly and efficiently - they give it their all every single day," said Senator Tim Kennedy"It's time New York does the same for them. We need to close the Medicaid Health Insurance funding gap in order to ensure all New Yorkers have access to quality, comprehensive care long-term,” said Senator Kennedy.

“I am in the community every day and I witness first-hand the pain this severe healthcare crisis is causing for low-income children, people with disabilities, and seniors,” said Rev. Mark Blue, pastor of Second Baptist Church of Lackawanna and the president of the NAACP’s Buffalo chapter. “It’s unacceptable that New York State’s Medicaid program pays hospitals and doctors 30 percent less than the cost of care they provide to Western New Yorkers. It is time to fully fund Medicaid and ensure our most vulnerable populations receive the healthcare they need and deserve,” said Blue. 

New York State’s chronic underfunding of Medicaid contributes to poor health outcomes largely in the Black and Latino communities, particularly affecting low-income seniors, expectant mothers, young children from low-income families, and people with disabilities. Some 43% of children in the city of Buffalo live in poverty, many of whom rely on Medicaid health insurance for their care.

"Our hospitals are in crisis in Western New York because the State does not provide adequate funding or reimbursement to hospitals— only 70% of the total cost of care,” said Cori Gambini Registered Nurse and President of CWA Local 1168.

“New Yorkers – regardless of their ability to pay or the type of insurance they have – need and deserve high quality care,” said CJ Urlaub, Senior Vice President of Strategic Growth and New Partnerships, Catholic Health. “New York must raise rates to cover the cost of care and commit to rebase rates on a regular interval.  The health of our community depends on it,” said Urlaub.

At Oishei Children’s Hospital 60-70% of our patients receive health insurance through Medicaid,” said Dr. Steve Turkovich, President of Kaleida Health’s Oishei Children’s Hospital. “We need a robust and sustained funding plan to ensure that we can collectively and effectively address the social determinants of health for our community’s kids and families,” said Turkovich.  

“Fully funding Medicaid is a powerful tool to reduce racial and ethnic disparities,” said Kim Utech, Nurse Practitioner, Kaleida Health’s Oishei Children’s Hospital.  “It is a way to provide needed healthcare in our medically underserved neighborhoods,” said Utech. 

“Governor Kathy Hochul, the time is now to fully fund Medicaid, so we have the supplies and staff to provide the proper healthcare our elderly generation needs,” said Renee Vernon, Licensed Practical Nurse at Garden Gate Nursing Home in Cheektowaga.

We are calling on governor Hochul to do the morally just thing,” said Grace Bogdanove, 1199SEIU Vice-President for WNY Nursing Homes.  “To act in the interest of the most vulnerable members of our communities. And in the nursing home industry, that means committing to increase Medicaid reimbursement rates by $44 per resident per day across the state as a necessary bridge to rebasing,” said Bogdanove.

Today’s press conference builds on the growing coalition of New Yorkers pressing Governor Hochul to end the Medicaid funding crisis bringing together healthcare workers and members of Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA), Communications Workers of America (CWA), the Public Employees Federation (PEF) and the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), as well as leaders from the largest healthcare employers in WNY - Catholic Health, Kaleida Health's Oishei Children's Hospital, Schofield Residence, and McGuire group. 

Earlier this week, a coalition of Rochester state legislative leaders, hospital representatives, and healthcare advocates and workers held a press conference at University of Rochester Medical Center’s Strong Memorial Hospital to urge Governor Kathy Hochul to fully fund Medicaid.

On Background
On January 30th, faith leaders from across the state rallied at the Capitol as over 200 faith leaders signed on to a letter calling on the Governor to end the Medicaid funding crisis. Last month, a majority of Democratic legislators in New York pledged to support fully funding Medicaid. In early January, Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA) President Ken Raske and 1199SEIU President George Gresham rallied at the Capitol with Albany leaders, healthcare workers, and patients in support of legislation that would increase the Medicaid reimbursement rate.

Over seven million New Yorkers rely on Medicaid for their healthcare, many in Western New York. Even though Medicaid provides vital coverage to these New Yorkers, the state pays hospitals 30% less than the actual cost of care hospitals and 24% less to nursing homes.  As a result of this underfunding, hospitals and nursing homes in New York continue to struggle financially more than in the rest of the U.S.— with nearly two-thirds of NY hospitals facing operating deficits. Ninety-percent of nursing homes in Western New York have Medicaid reimbursement rates that fall below the statewide average, compounding staffing shortages and pushing facilities to the financial brink.

Without sufficient funding in the Governor’s final budget, many hospitals and nursing homes, cannot invest in programs or infrastructure that benefit patients and residents and communities they serve. The Western New York region has seen the consequences of inadequate funding firsthand, with the abrupt closure of Eastern Niagara Hospital, cuts to services at Mount St. Mary’s Hospitals, and nursing homes regionwide that are on the brink of failure. The region also continues to see overcrowding in hospital emergency rooms and staffing issues in nursing homes, both of which are a real threat to the continuum of care for all patients and residents across the state.

Chronic underfunding of Medicaid continues to perpetuate health disparities in largely Black and Latino communities, particularly affecting low-income seniors, expectant mothers, young children from low-income families, and people with disabilities. In the Rochester area, nearly half of all children in Rochester live in poverty – the second-highest rate in the nation.

For example, while Medicaid covers 50% of births in New York, women covered by Medicaid accounted for 61% of pregnancy-associated deaths in 2018, with Black women experiencing significantly higher mortality rates than other races. Infant mortality rates for Blacks and Latinos are also higher than for whites.

By raising Medicaid rates to cover the cost of hospital services over the next four years, New York can eliminate the Medicaid funding gap and reduce the resulting care gaps and health disparities for the 40% of New Yorkers covered by Medicaid Health Insurance program. This will not only stabilize hospitals across the state but also allow them to invest and grow critical services needed to treat the most vulnerable New Yorkers.


1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East is the largest and fastest-growing healthcare union in America. We represent over 400,000 nurses and caregivers throughout Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Florida. Our mission is to achieve quality care and good jobs for all.