Syracuse State Legislators, Hospital and Nursing Home Leaders, Healthcare Advocates, and Faith Leaders Call on Governor Hochul to End Medicaid Funding Crisis

February 22, 2024

Event is Part of a Statewide, Coordinated “Speakout” Demanding Gov. Hochul Address Healthcare Inequities

Thousands of hospital and nursing home workers—stretching from Long Island to Western New York—will rally outside their institutions on Thursday afternoon, calling on Gov. Hochul to properly fund Medicaid,
a lifeline for over 7 million New Yorkers

Syracuse, New York – Today, Syracuse state legislators, hospital and nursing home representatives, faith leaders, and healthcare advocates held a press conference at Crouse Hospital in Syracuse to demand that Governor Hochul address New York’s dire Medicaid funding crisis by raising the Medicaid reimbursement rate for hospitals and nursing homes. Today’s press conference builds on the work of the New York Alliance for Healthcare Justice, a growing coalition of New Yorkers pressing state leaders to end the Medicaid funding crisis.

Over seven million New Yorkers rely on Medicaid for their healthcare, many in the Syracuse area. 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 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 New York hospitals facing operating deficits. Ninety percent of nursing homes in Central New York also have Medicaid reimbursement rates that fall below the statewide average.

Without sufficient funding, many hospitals such as Crouse Memorial Hospital cannot invest in programs or infrastructure that benefit the patients and communities they serve. The Central New York region 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.

“Reimbursement rates haven’t changed since 2007. That should tell you that there’s a problem. Not just in nursing homes and hospitals, but throughout the entire healthcare industry. Today, because of workforce shortages, you may have to wait up to ten hours to get admitted to a hospital. And the ER workers can’t leave until the person is admitted, which takes an ambulance out of the streets,” said New York State Assemblymember Al Stirpe. “The whole system is a mess, and we have to do something. Here is the bottom line: we can’t keep doing this every year. There’s a phrase we use in conference: ‘Is this a hill you’re willing to die on?’ Fully funding Medicaid is a hill that the majority of us are willing to die on. It is time for the Governor and the legislature to get to work and do this.”

“The Medicaid issue is one of dire need. Medicaid is one of the largest sources of funding for our hospitals and nursing homes, and the chronic underfunding of New York’s Medicaid program puts them at risk of closing.Since the passing of last year’s budget, hospitals across the state have closed. In addition, many hospitals have eliminated services. How can we establish a continuum of care if all our hospitals and nursing homes are struggling? Governor Hochul: you must do the right thing by 7 million New Yorkers who rely on Medicaid for their healthcare.” said Kevin Lockhart, Vice President, CNY/Syracuse 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East. “If we continue to starve our Medicaid funding services, we will never maintain or grow the services we need in our state. How can New York’s healthcare system survive with such inequity, with the state reimbursing hospitals 30 percent less than the full cost of care and nursing homes with 24 percent less? We have the ability in New York State to fund Medicaid fully. It is time for the Governor to act.”

Seven million New Yorkers are covered by Medicaid, including low-income seniors, children, and people with disabilities. In Onondaga County, nearly one-third of residents rely on Medicaid for their healthcare. It is a lifeline. The Medicaid funding gap pushes hospitals like Crouse to the brink and threatens care for all New Yorkers. Hospitals are making severe cuts to crucial services. Some hospitals have closed entirely, leaving some New Yorkers with no access to care.” said Gwen Muok, President, Syracuse Onondaga County NAACP. “Even with this knowledge, the Governor proposed a budget that will make this worse. There is a commonsense solution. New York’s leaders must close the Medicaid funding gap and provide New Yorkers with access to quality care. Failure to fully Medicaid means with are not taking this issue seriously. Governor Hochul needs to act.”

“I’ve been in long term care for almost 20 years. 60% of our patients rely on Medicaid, but the state reimburses nursing homes 30% less than the full cost of care. You can’t run an operation on a nearly $120 deficit per resident per day.” said Russell M. D’Amico, CEO, Menorah Park of Central NY. “I’m here today to speak for all the nursing homes, on behalf of all the residents. This issue is important. If we don’t raise the Medicaid reimbursement rate, nursing homes will be closing throughout the state. We are asking the legislature to take a hard look at this issue and make the adjustments necessary so that we can solve it.”

“It is important to us as a community to have Medicaid equity in our city and our county. I recently experienced a life-threatening medical condition, but I had access to healthcare. I remember a time when I didn’t have that access. There was a radical difference. I can’t imagine what would happen if I didn’t have that access. How many have left this earth because they don’t have access?” said Rev. Dr. Eric Jackson of Plymouth Congregational Church, UCC. “We treat healthcare in this country like a privilege. It is not. It is a basic human right. The health conditions people face have nothing to do with how hard they work. Embracing Medicaid equity is not extracurricular. It is our responsibility. We need healthcare for all. Medicaid equity brings us closer to that goal. It is my prayer that our elected officials will come together and say we need Medicaid equity, not tomorrow but now.”

“It’s not every day that you see hospital management, bedside caregivers, community organizations, clergy, and elected officials all speaking together with one voice – but today is that day. That’s because we all agree on one thing: it’s not right that Medicaid pays 30% less than the total of their bill for care. I wish that were an option for the bills I have to pay, but that’s not how the world works, and it is not how Medicaid reimbursement should work either,” said Tori Gushea, RN, Crouse Hospital. “All of us standing here agree that fully funding Medicaid would benefit our patients. No one is immune to the consequences of low reimbursement rates. Today I am speaking out to ask Governor Hochul to do the right thing for healthcare workers across the state: Increase funding for our hospitals and nursing homes and give us the opportunity to end the healthcare crisis that we are facing. We need this funding so we can continue to provide the quality care that we came to this profession to give, and that every patient deserves.

“From my point of view as a healthcare worker, I can say that we are in the midst of a healthcare crisis. Nursing homes in Upstate New York are critically understaffed and underpaid, making it very difficult to recruit and retain staff. The stresses placed on the remaining caregivers are severe and are a major driver of continued high turnover. This is not good for the residents we care for. Underfunding healthcare facilities in New York has been going on for years,” said Desma Williams, CNA, Central Park Rehab. “It’s time to eliminate the gap between the cost of care and the amount Medicaid pays for critical healthcare services. Adequate Medicaid payments to facilities are essential to ensure quality care for our communities’ most vulnerable people. Today I am standing with elected officials, community advocates, and hospital and nursing home leadership speaking out together as loud as we can so that they can hear us in Albany: Governor Hochul you have a $40 million-dollar rainy day fund just sitting there while we are in the midst of a hurricane. Medicaid Equity must be a priority in our state budget. We can’t wait any longer.”

New York State’s chronic underfunding of Medicaid also 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. Syracuse was ranked number two among big US cities for worst child poverty last year with a rate of 45.8%, many of these children rely on Medicaid health insurance for their care.

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.

Recently in Buffalo and Rochester, state legislative leaders, hospital representatives, and healthcare advocates and workers held press conferences to urge Governor Kathy Hochul to fully fund Medicaid. Last month, 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. A majority of Democratic legislators in New York have indicated that they support fully funding Medicaid.

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 the 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 New York Alliance for Healthcare Justice

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.

For additional information, click HERE.

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