Thousands of NY Healthcare Workers, Faith Leaders, and Legislators Join Protests in 7 Cities on Friday Against Gov. Hochul’s Budget Proposal

March 22, 2024

Healthcare Cuts and Medicaid Funding Shortfalls in the Governor’s Budget Would Worsen Healthcare Disparities and Threaten More Closures of Hospitals and Nursing Homes, Caregivers and Advocates Say

New York, New York – Today, thousands of New York healthcare workers, faith leaders and legislators filled the streets in seven major cities across New York State to march in protest of Governor Kathy Hochul’s budget proposal that fails to fully fund Medicaid, the public health insurance program that provides healthcare for more than 7 million low-income New Yorkers.

Healthcare workers from hospitals, nursing homes, home care, and community-based settings joined Medicaid patients in demonstrations in Manhattan, Hempstead, Yonkers, Poughkeepsie, Syracuse, Rochester, and the Governor’s hometown of Buffalo.

The largest march took place in the streets of Manhattan, beginning at East 19th St. and First Ave. and capping at the governor’s New York City office, where a group of reverends and imams delivered a petition for fully funded Medicaid signed by 627 statewide faith leaders. The largest upstate rally took place near the Governor’s hometown in downtown Buffalo where a large coalition of faith leaders, community organizations, labor unions and healthcare workers rallied and marched to Niagara Square.

Healthcare workers and advocates marched to urge Governor Hochul to fix the current Medicaid funding levels, which compensate healthcare providers 30% less than the actual cost of care. This chronic underfunding has led hospitals and nursing homes to cut or reduce vital services, and in some cases, close their doors. Recent hospital closures include Mount Sinai Beth Israel, Eastern Niagara Hospital, and Kingsbrook Jewish Medicaid Center. In January, the state announced plans to close SUNY Downstate. Community healthcare services are also being curtailed at an alarming rate—maternity wards, for example, have been closing at a rate of two per year, while some nursing homes were forced to close entire units.

“I am proud to stand with healthcare workers, organized labor, patients, faith leaders and my legislative colleagues across New York State to advocate for increasing the Medicaid reimbursement rate, a rate that has remained flat for the last 15 years,” said Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes.”There is no time like the present to make these changes. This flat rate, combined with inflation, has impacted service delivery and health disparities and points to an unsustainable financial future for most healthcare institutions, many of which are still on fragile financial footing and recovering from COVID.”

“Our frontline healthcare workers work tirelessly to provide quality care to our communities, yet many of them face challenges such as low wages, lack of resources, and burnout. By coming together and holding coordinated rallies across New York State, we are sending a powerful message that it is time to protect and invest in healthcare, reduce disparities, and save lives. We must continue to advocate for healthcare justice for all New Yorkers by adequately funding our healthcare programs and paying our dedicated healthcare workers quality wages,” said Assemblymember Demond Meeks.

“We as a region and state are already working around the clock to bridge health disparities in underserved communities after years of disinvestment. Now is not the time for cuts that directly impact these same populations and put them at greater risk,” said New York State Senator Tim Kennedy. “We need to empower our outstanding healthcare workers and caregivers and close the Medicaid funding gap in order to ensure all New Yorkers have access to quality, comprehensive care long-term.”

“I’m proud to stand with 1199 SEIU, local hospitals, and our partners in healthcare as we call for long overdue Medicaid rate increases for our hospitals, nursing homes, and long term care providers. These rate increases are an essential component in supporting our healthcare workforce, reducing overcrowding, and shortening wait times. As Chair of the Senate Committee on Mental Health, and as a member of the Health Committee, I remain committed to our ongoing work to close the Medicaid gap and securing rate increases in this year’s budget,” said New York State Senator Samra Brouk.

“At a time when healthcare costs have skyrocketed and staffing shortages persist, we cannot afford to make cuts to Medicaid. New Yorkers deserve to have access to quality healthcare, no matter what their income is. I fully support 1199 in their efforts to restore this crucial funding and will be advocating for the many constituents within my district that will be severely impacted by cuts to Medicaid. As we approach a final budget agreement, it is critical that you make your voices heard as I work with my colleagues to support our patients and healthcare workers,” said Assemblymember Pamela Hunter.

“I am concerned that Central New York’s hospitals and nursing homes are facing financial distress due to the low Medicaid reimbursement rates paid by the State. I will continue to support our health care workers and our local hospitals, and to restore the $1 billion cut by the Executive’s proposed budget and increase the rates as much as possible to cover the true costs of care, all to provide quality health care to members of our community who rely on these essential services,” said Assemblymember Bill Magnarelli.

“Staffing levels at nursing homes and hospitals are at a critical level. Low reimbursement rates make it impossible for these facilities to offer competitive wages that would help fill these staff positions. Low revenue, lack of staff, and beds taken offline all contribute to reduced revenue. It’s become a vicious cycle,” said New York Assemblymember Al Stirpe.

“I soundly reject any cuts to Medicaid, which would unilaterally harm New York’s healthcare services and workforce. It’s unsustainable to continue to shortchange hospitals and providers, and I’m committed to reforming reimbursement rates to reflect the true cost of care. I’m proud to stand with SEIU in this important effort,” said New York State Senator John W. Mannion.

“The health of New Yorkers is one of our top priorities. We cannot ignore the dire consequences of reducing essential services for those who need them the most,” said Senator Rachel May. “The Senate Majority stands by this commitment and adds $1 billion to the Medicaid system, ensuring that our medical system remains strong and vital, but also sends a clear message that we stand for fairness and equity in healthcare.”

“I love my work and I love my residents. I know my coworkers and I do the very best we can, but we could do so much more if Governor Hochul would fairly fund Medicaid. I’m marching today for the residents of my nursing home and the residents of nursing homes all around the State. Everyone deserves the best quality of care,” said Annis Stewart who has worked at a nursing home in Brooklyn for 17 years.

“Beth Israel is my family’s hospital. Both my daughters were born there, and sadly my father died there. Hospitals are all about life & death, but I didn’t think I would outlive Beth Israel Hospital. It’s not just Beth Israel. It’s Kingsbrook Jewish, Eastern Niagara, and now SUNY Downstate. I’m marching all the way to the governor’s office so my family & all New Yorkers do not lose another hospital,” said Jose Gozalez who has worked at Beth Israel Hospital for 35 years.

“I’ve been doing this work for 19 years because the patients need us. I work seven days a week so I can afford to keep living in this city. While workers like me are struggling to pay their rent, Governor Hochul wants to take $3 an hour away from some home care aids. I’m marching today to let the governor know it is time to do better for home care workers and our patients,” said Silvanus Kydd, a home care worker from Brooklyn.

“Our faith implores us to plead for the cause of the poor and needy, which is why Medicaid is a great concern to us. It is unacceptable that Medicaid reimburses our hospital, nursing homes and doctors 30% less than the actual cost of care. It is as if our congregants, and the most vulnerable New Yorkers, are being treated like 30% less of a person,” said Reverend Terry Calhoun of Lemuel Haynes Congregation in Jamaica, Queens. “New York’s legislature is standing with us and is prioritizing Medicaid and putting New York on the path to a fully funded program. Governor Hochul, now is the time for you to join them.”

“My son was in a horrific car accident in August 2020, and Medicaid is the reason he is alive today. I’m appalled that Governor Hochul wants to cut this program, because there’s no way I would have been able to pay for his medical expenses in the hospital, and his continued rehab, medicine, and treatment without it. This is a deeply personal issue to me and my family,” said Addie McVay, a mother and Medicaid recipient who marched in Manhattan. “Governor Hochul, you’re playing with my son’s life.”

“After decades of underfunding Medicaid, NYS leaders have an opportunity to pass significant increases in Medicaid reimbursement rates for hospitals that will help address our statewide healthcare crisis, stabilize staffing, improve working conditions, and improve quality of care for patients across New York. That’s why we are coming together with our union brothers and sisters – to ensure our leaders put the health and well-being of New Yorkers first,” said Dennis G. Trainor, Vice President of Communications Workers of America District 1.

While this healthcare crisis worsens, Governor Hochul has proposed alarming cuts to homecare, including slashing wages by $3 an hour for home health aides of home health aides for the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program (CDPAP).  This program allows individuals with disabilities who rely on Medicaid to directly hire an in-home caregiver of their choice, enabling them to live independently with the support of a trusted caregiver rather than going through an agency or moving into a medical institution. This cut would exacerbate New York’s shortage of home care workers, while harming a predominantly low-wage and female workforce.

In contrast, the New York State Senate and Assembly’s One House Budget proposals reject Governor Hochul’s dangerous healthcare cuts and proposed a solution that would put New York on a path to closing the Medicaid funding gap.

New York State’s chronic underfunding of Medicaid negatively affects health outcomes for Black and Latino communities across New York, as well as low-income seniors, expectant mothers, young children from low-income families, and people with disabilities.

Today’s march builds on a movement to fully fund Medicaid and ensure every New Yorker receives the quality healthcare they need and deserve.

Last week, a diverse coalition of nearly 100 patient groups and community health advocates, representing hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers from across the state, delivered an open letter to the Governor’s office in Manhattan to demand that Governor Hochul address New York’s dire Medicaid funding crisis by raising the Medicaid reimbursement rate for hospitals and nursing homes. In response to the New York State Senate and Assembly one-house budget resolutions, the coalition also applauded the move that puts the State on a path to fully funding Medicaid by prioritizing a crucial Medicaid reimbursement rate increase for hospitals and eliminating Governor Hochul’s proposed healthcare cuts. They are now calling on the Governor to finalize a budget that accomplishes these priorities.

The coalition continues to collaborate with local municipalities statewide – including the cities of  Syracuse, Buffalo, and Rochester – as they have worked with state legislative leaders, hospital representatives, and healthcare advocates and workers have held press conferences in recent months to urge Governor Kathy Hochul to fully fund Medicaid. In January, 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. Recently in an op-ed in the Buffalo News, Reverend Mark Blue, president of the NAACP’s Buffalo Chapter, pressed Governor Hochul to end the Medicaid funding crisis.

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.

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