NYC Promises 'Guaranteed' Healthcare for All Residents
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Tuesday, January 15, 2019 05:22 PM

The city of New York is launching a program to guarantee that every resident has health insurance, as well as timely access to physicians and health services, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced.  "From this moment on in New York City, everyone is guaranteed the right to healthcare -- everyone. We are saying the word 'guarantee' because we can make it happen."  

The program, which will cost $100 million annually, involves several parts. First, officials will work to increase enrollment in MetroPlus, which is New York's public health insurance option. The mayor's office also said the new effort "will 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 promised that no tax increases are needed to fund the program; the $100 million will come from the city's existing budget, currently about $90 billion.

NYC Care will launch in summer 2019 and will roll out gradually in different parts of the city, starting in the Bronx, according to the release. It will be fully available to all New Yorkers across the city's five boroughs in 2021.

For the estimated 600,000 city residents who don't currently have health insurance -- because they can't afford what is on the Affordable Care Act health insurance exchange; because they're young and healthy and choose not to pay for insurance; or because they are undocumented -- the city will provide a plan that will connect them to reliable care at a sliding-scale fee. "NYC Care will provide a primary care doctor and will provide access to specialty care, prescription drugs, mental health services, hospitalization, and more," the press release noted.

Notably, the press release lacked many details on how the city will fund the plan and how much enrollees would have to pay. It also remained unclear how the city will persuade the "young invincibles" -- those who can afford insurance but believe they don't need it -- to join up. Nor was arithmetic presented to document how much the city would save on city-paid emergency and hospital care by making preventive care more accessible.

"Every New Yorker will have a card with [the name of] a... primary care doctor they can turn to that's their doctor, with specialty services that make a difference, whether it's ob/gyn care, mental health care, pediatric care -- you name it, the things that people need will be available to them," said de Blasio. "This is going to be a difference-maker in their lives. Get the healthcare you need when you need it." And because more people will get preventive care, the city might actually save money, he added. "You won't end up in a hospital bed if you actually get the care you need when the disease starts."

"The umbrella concept is crucial here," said de Blasio. "If John or Jane Doe is sick, now they know exactly where to go. They have a name, an address... We want it to be seamless; if you have questions, here's where to call."

Help will be available at all hours, said Palacio. "Let's say they're having an after-hours issue and need understanding about where to get a prescription filled. They can call this number and get real-time help about what pharmacy would be open," or find out which urgent care center can see them for a sore throat.

Mitchell Katz, MD, president and CEO of NYC Health and Hospitals, the city's public healthcare network, noted that prescription drugs are one thing most people are worried about being able to afford, but "under this program, pharmaceutical costs are covered."