State Legislative Leaders, URMC Management, & Healthcare Workers Demand Governor Hochul End Medicaid Funding CrisisFebruary 5, 2024
Press Release: February 5, 2024
Contact: April Ezzell, (716) 449-1620
Footage here: Medicaid Press Conf 02052024 at URMC.MOV
In Monroe County nearly a third of residents rely on Medicaid for their health coverage
Press conference builds on growing statewide pressure for Governor Hochul to fully fund Medicaid Insurance Program for all New Yorkers as Local Healthcare Workers Leave For Albany Again This Week
Rochester, New York – This morning 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 Health Insurance and to increase funding for safety net hospitals and nursing homes across the state.
In Monroe 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 URMC’s Strong Memorial Hospital, cannot invest in programs or infrastructure that benefit the patients and communities they serve. In the Rochester region in particular hospitals and nursing homes continue to face overcrowding and bed shortage due to the persistent underfunding of Medicaid.
Today’s press conference builds on the growing coalition of New Yorkers pressing Governor Hochul to end the Medicaid funding crisis. Last week, 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.
“This funding gap contributes to unacceptable racial disparities in health outcomes, overwhelms hospitals and nursing homes that are already facing chronic understanding, and puts vulnerable patients and residents at risk, Governor Hochul,” said Tracey Harrison, 1199SEIU Vice-President for Rochester/Corning. “If we continue to starve Medicaid-funded services, we will never maintain or grow the services or workforce providing healthcare in our state,” said Harrison.
“If we are waiting for a rainy day, if we were waiting on a crisis to come – we are here to say, it is pouring and we are in that crisis,” said New York State Senator Samra G. Brouk, Chair of Committee on Mental Health. “We have no choice but to actually fill the gap this year and let New Yorkers know that they no longer have to pay the price for lack of funding for our healthcare system,” said Senator Brouk.
“This is our opportunity to do what’s right, morally right for greater Rochester and New York state,” said New York State Senator Jeremy A. Cooney, Chair of Committee on Procurement and Contracts. “We are going to close the gap. We are going to make critical investment now so we are a healthier and better New York next year,” said Senator Cooney.
“When we have improved healthcare systems in our community, we all win,” said New York Assemblymember Demond Meeks. “We should not have to come back here year after year, advocating for needed resources in healthcare – this should simply be part of the state budget,” said Assemblymember Meeks.
“It works when you reimburse for the cost of care. It does not work when you constantly undercut that cost and pay people less than the services they are delivering,” said New York Assemblymember Sarah Clark. “There is no other answer, other than closing the Medicaid gap. That is why it’s incumbent upon us and our Governor to understand this and our healthcare system and what it means. It means that patients are sitting in this hospital for weeks and often months at a time with no place to go. It means there’s wings at our nursing homes and our long-term care facilities that are dark. We don’t have staff to hire to fill those beds,” said Assemblymember Clark.
“While nearly every cost of running a hospital continues to rise, the executive budget goes in the opposite direction. Gov. Hochul has proposed more than $1.3 billion in reductions to health providers,” said Kathy Parrinello, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Strong Memorial Hospital.
“Our region’s hospitals and nursing homes can no longer do more with less. Rochester and the Finger Lakes have the lowest number of inpatient beds per capita than any region in the state, far below the national average. We’ve lost approximately 1,500 staffed nursing home beds since 2020,” said Parrinello.
“Governor Hochul, will you please do right by the people? Fully fund Medicaid now,” said Robin White, Patient Care Technician, URMC’s Strong Memorial Hospital.
“We are heading to Albany today to join healthcare workers from across the state to lobby our elected officials and to send a message to Governor Kathy Hochul to fully fund Medicaid health coverage for all New Yorkers in this budget,” said Kellie Miller, Transportation Assistant, URMC’s Strong Memorial Hospital.
“Guaranteeing that Medicaid reimbursement rates will no longer drive financial losses for hospitals and nursing homes providing health care to our most vulnerable New Yorkers is long overdue,” said New York State Assemblymember Harry Bronson. “My delegation colleagues and I are pushing for funding in the NYS budget that will increase Medicaid rates to support our safety-net hospitals, nursing homes and especially their front-line workers. We value our partnerships with 1199SEIU, the URMC and the Greater New York Hospital Association and urge Governor Hochul to help our hospital and long-term care workers and patients by raising reimbursement rates in this year’s budget,” said Assemblymember Bronson who could not attend today’s press conference.
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.
About the Healthcare Education Project
The New York Alliance for Healthcare Justice (NYAHJ) is dedicated to ensuring that Medicaid reimbursements cover the full cost of care, so that all New Yorkers have access to quality health care. NYAHJ is an initiative through the Healthcare Education Project (HEP), a community-based advocacy organization working to protect and expand access to quality, affordable healthcare for all Americans through education, advocacy, and coalition building. HEP is a joint effort of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East and the Greater New York Hospital Association, founded in 1999.
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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.
The New York Alliance for Healthcare Justice (NYAHJ) is dedicated to ensuring that Medicaid reimbursements cover the full cost of care, so that all New Yorkers have access to quality health care. NYAHJ is an initiative through the Healthcare Education Project (HEP), a community-based advocacy organization working to protect and expand access to quality, affordable healthcare for all Americans through education, advocacy, and coalition building. HEP is a joint effort of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East and the Greater New York Hospital Association, founded