Eastside Forum on Medicaid Funding & Healthcare Inequities in Communities of Color On Wednesday, 2/21 at Merriweather Library on Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo

February 20, 2024

1199SEIU Logo 1@3x.pngRELEASE: February 20, 2024
Contact: April Ezzell, 1199SEIU Communications, (716) 449-1620

Interview & Visual Opportunity

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

BUFFALO, NY - 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. 

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. Some 9 out of 10 nursing homes in Upstate New York fall below the statewide average reimbursement rate. Without sufficient funding, many hospitals and nursing homes 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. 

NAACP Buffalo Chapter - Rev Mark Blue, President
Buffalo Common Councilmember Zeneta Everhart
Dr. Kush Bhardwaj (Director of Racial Equity & Justice at Open Buffalo)
1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East
Healthcare Education Project

WHAT:  Community Forum

WHEN: Wednesday, February 21, 2024 from 3:00 PM-4:00 PM

WHERE: Frank E. Merriweather, Jr Library at 1324 Jefferson Ave, Buffalo, NY 14208

On Background

This month a growing coalition of Western New Yorkers held a press conference calling on Governor Hochul to end the Medicaid funding crisis bringing together healthcare workers and members of 1199SEIU, WNY Area Labor Federation, 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. 

Last week, residents and nursing workers at Schofield Residence in Tonawanda held a Valentine’s Day ceremony, calling on Governor Hochul to fully fund Medicaid. 

Earlier this month, 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 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.