Healthcare in New York State

Today I attended the first virtual rally to Pass New York Health Act! Almost 500 New Yorkers joined the zoom and countless more via Facebook live!

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said at the rally, “beds not body bags…move away from cutting Medicaid and move towards everybody having healthcare. It’s what we have a true blue state for…”

I worked hard to make New York true blue. A fight we won. A victory that means we should not have Medicaid cuts or austerity budgets or republican talking points as policy. A victory that means we should have the New York Health Act passed and progressive taxation so the most wealthy among us pay their share and policy that helps all New Yorkers.

The Public Advocate Williams and other speakers at the Pass New York Health Virtual Rally touched on almost every healthcare issue we face or will face before, during, and after the Coronavirus pandemic and how barriers to healthcare have been laid bare during by the pandemic. It is clear the New York Health Act is the only way forward for our State.

One issue touched on is how New York State hospital closures, loss of 20k hospital beds, and other cuts made the pandemic worse for black, brown, immigrant, and poor communities. This piece does a good job of laying it out

Since 2003, 41 hospitals have closed statewide — 18 in New York City.

Since 2000 New York State has lost 20k hospital beds.

In Queens, four hospitals have closed between 2008 and 2012.

In 2005, the Berger Commission was established by then Governor Pataki and chaired by “investment banker” Stephen Berger — as a “state cost-cutting commission that initiated a wave of hospital closures in New York City.”

Some of this has to do with a shift in how medical treatment is delivered but much more has to do with financial motivations. Literally putting profits over people — New Yorkers who today are the most directly hurt by Covid19.

As decisions were being made to close hospitals and reduce the numbers of beds there did not seem to be any consideration of the many black, brown, immigrant, poor, uninsured communities for whom hospitals are the frontline of healthcare.

There did not seem to be any consideration given to the what ifs — what if there was another AIDS type plague, what if there was disaster with many people hurt, what if there was a global pandemic, what if on top of the many already uninsured, millions more became unemployed and insured.

Our elected leaders didn’t stand up and fight for hospitals in these communities which really meant not fighting for healthcare in all communities as the community hospitals that remained, like Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, became overwhelmed. Now we are paying the price in human lives.

There are solutions. Immediately, stop more cuts to Medicaid in our state and make sure our governor does not pass Medicaid costs on to localities. The latter should be stipulated in the next federal stimulus package and worth a call to Senator Schumer.

Equally urgent is passing the New York Health Act so all New Yorkers are insured and can access healthcare without depending on community hospitals.

And there needs to be another shift:

Away from profit and efficiency as the core of decision making to considering people, the reality of what’s happening in communities and what could happen.

Away from elected leaders going along with little fight to standing up, advocating, and fighting for their constituents, the most vulnerable, and all New Yorkers.