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Empire Justice Center Testimony at the 2017 Health Budget Hearing

Empire Justice February 16, 2017

Introduction

My name is Amy Lowenstein and I am a Senior Attorney in the Albany office of Empire Justice Center.  I would like to thank you for the opportunity to testify today concerning the 2017-2018 Health and Medicaid Budget.

Empire Justice Center is a statewide legal services organization with offices in Albany, Rochester, Westchester and Central Islip (Long Island).  Empire Justice provides support and training to legal services and other community based organizations, undertakes policy research and analysis, and engages in legislative and administrative advocacy.  We also represent low income individuals, as well as classes of New Yorkers, in a wide range of poverty law areas including health, public assistance, domestic violence, and SSI/SSD benefits.

Empire Justice has had the opportunity to serve on numerous advisory committees for New York State during Medicaid Redesign and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.  We had an advisory role as a member of the Finger Lakes Regional Advisory Committee for the Health Benefit Exchange and the statewide Medicaid Managed Care Advisory Review Committee.  We have also worked directly with the New York State Department of Health, serving on workgroups concerning the Basic Health Program, Managed Long-Term Care quality incentives, Managed Long-Term Care implementation, and Value Based Payment.  We serve on the steering committees of Health Care for All New York (HCFANY), Medicaid Matters New York (MMNY), and the Coalition to Protect the Rights of New York’s Dually Eligible.  We co-facilitate MMNY and HCFANY’s Public Programs Group, which meets regularly with the Department of Health on Exchange implementation issues.  These experiences, along with our day-to-day work with low income New Yorkers and their advocates, have helped shape the perspective we provide today.

Through my testimony today, Empire Justice Center urges the Legislature to:

  1. Expand and strengthen post-enrollment health insurance advocacy and assistance for New Yorkers by supporting the Governor’s appropriation for Community Health Advocates (CHA) with an additional legislative investment of $2.25 million.
  2. Keep health care affordable for Essential Plan enrollees by preventing expansion of premiums and annual premium increases and limiting cost sharing.
  3. Ensure that sick and disabled children, New Yorkers with disabilities, and seniors continue to have access to medically necessary care by preserving spousal and parental refusal in the Medicaid program.
  4. Address barriers to accessing homecare and other community based long term care by taking steps to deal with the Medicaid personal care aide shortage and increase oversight and accountability of Medicaid managed care plans, including MLTC.
  5. Ensure that MLTC eligibility rules do not create additional barriers to homecare.
  6. Restore access to medically necessary physical, occupational and speech therapies by repealing Medicaid’s 20 visit hard cap on those services.
  7. Ensure that New York’s most vulnerable Medicaid recipients are able to access the medications prescribed by their doctors by preserving prescriber prevails in Medicaid’s fee-for-service and managed care programs.
  8. Retain the current Medicaid pharmacy copay levels.
  9. Preserve the Medicaid hospice benefit.
  10. Preserve Medicaid bed hold payments to nursing homes so that residents who are temporarily hospitalized or on other therapeutic leave, such as to briefly visit a family member, may return to the same nursing home.
  11. Raise the Child Health Plus age limit to 30 so that all young adult New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status, can access health insurance.
  12. Ensure that the Health Care Regulation Modernization Team has substantial voting representation from Medicaid consumers and organizations that represent consumers’ interests, and that the powers of the Modernization Team are limited to an advisory role and do not bypass procedures required to suspend regulations and laws.

Read the full testimony here.