ROCHESTER & ALBANY, NY (March 16, 2023) - Assemblymember Harry B. Bronson, representing District 138, has secured important wins for healthcare equity with his advocacy for budget measures that protect health safety-nets, wraparound care and access to housing for marginalized and low- income communities, People of Color and those living with HIV/AIDS.
The 2023 Assembly one house budget announced several priorities, including: repeal of the Medicaid Pharmacy Benefit Transfer (340B carve-out), state-wide HIV housing, Medicaid reimbursement rates, and an increase in human services and mental health services funding.
340B Medicaid Pharmacy Benefit
One of the most critical gains is the repeal of the 340B carve-out. Assemblymember Bronson has been a vocal and persistent voice in support of the repeal, citing the damage it will do in marginalized communities. Those who will be most impacted are low-income New Yorkers, those living with HIV, children, people of color and hardworking people who are underinsured or uninsured.
“Repealing this measure is lifesaving,” said Bronson. “We must cancel the carve-out and keep 340B in place. Affordable medication as well as wraparound, ‘whole person’ care is crucial in providing adequate long-term solutions and comprehensive care for those with chronic illnesses. Access to health care and housing are some of our biggest societal dividers and are directly linked to quality of life as well as life expectancy. I will continue to do everything in my power to protect access.”
340B was created by Congress in 1992 to improve care and access to marginalized communities by providing discounts on certain prescription drugs as a condition of the Medicaid program. This program allows qualifying healthcare centers and hospitals to purchase prescription drugs at a discount, then invest those savings in wraparound services and other outreach initiatives, such as: care to uninsured and underinsured people, housing, nutrition services and transportation.
In her 2023 budget, Governor Kathy Hochul advocated for keeping the “carve-out,” which would move the 340B program to a fee-for-service system as early as April 2023; leading to a reduction in services to the over 2.3 million underserved New Yorkers who depend upon these safety-nets. Approximately 90% of those served by 340B are low-income. In the City of Rochester roughly 1 in 2 children live below the poverty line, and the proposed changes to 340B would disrupt their everyday health and well-being as well as stripping away critical supplemental services. For these reasons, Assemblymember Bronson is proud to have fought successfully to repeal the 340B provision.
HIV/AIDS Housing Services
Another major accomplishment in this year’s Assembly budget is the implementation, based on Assemblymember Bronson’s legislation, of state-wide housing protections for those living with HIV/AIDS (Rest of State). The Assembly is providing $10 million for the HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA) program outside of New York City. As a result of Assemblymember Bronson’s advocacy, every county is now eligible to opt-in to the state reimbursement program. The goal is to incentivize and encourage counties to provide life-saving housing to those living with HIV and experiencing housing instability.
“Every New Yorker, living with HIV, who is experiencing homelessness or housing instability should have equal access to the safe, stable housing that is a key determinant of effective HIV health outcomes, and is necessary to reduce ongoing transmission of HIV; critical to address the stark and persistent HIV health inequities that prevent us from ending our HIV epidemic in every community,” said Assemblymember Bronson. “It is about time that no matter the county a person with HIV/AIDs lives in, they have access to stable housing. Rest of State housing care is a huge achievement and one I have been fighting to secure for many years.”
Medicaid Reimbursement Rates
Another of Assemblymember Bronson’s key issues is the Medicaid reimbursement rates. Under the Assembly proposed budget, nursing homes and hospitals will receive a long-awaited increase. In patient services will now receive a 10% reimbursement rate, up 5 percent over the governor’s proposal. In an effort to equalize quality of care, this will be a uniform increase for all inpatient services and will remain in effect until 2026.
“The inadequate Medicaid reimbursements to our nursing homes and hospitals has resulted in barriers to providing quality of care, including jammed emergency rooms and a lack of staffing for beds in our nursing homes,” said Assemblymember Bronson. “Our families deserve better and the Assembly’s proposed increase in this funding will offer some relief.”
Human Service Cost of Living Adjustment
The Assembly one house budget also includes an 8.5% Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for human services workers, which Assemblymember Bronson has advocated for throughout the budget process and will continue to push for in negotiations. Assemblymember Bronson said, “We must show our human service workers the respect they deserve for the invaluable work they do for our families.” Human service workers, such as direct support professionals, behavioral support professionals, social workers and other mental health professionals, provide critical care for thousands of New Yorkers and fulfil an important component of our health care system. We must support these workers through an adequate COLA.
In addition to the substantial mental health proposals recommended by the Executive to help families secure access to mental health services, Assemblymember Bronson is proud the Assembly added licensed master Creative Arts Therapists to the list of mental health professionals that can offer treatment and have it paid for by commercial insurance carriers. This should expand the field of mental health professionals by nearly 4,000, and shows recognition of the many different types of mental health services that can make a difference in people’s lives.
“The Assembly one house budget shows there is a better, less disruptive way to achieve the state’s medical and mental health goals without removing vital, life-saving access from communities who rely on these measures to access care and wraparound services critical to their quality of life. When considering health care reforms, our goal should always be to put people first. The Assembly is the people’s house and these proposals demonstrate that we are here to advocate for all New Yorkers.”
Assemblymember Bronson is available for comment and media appearance in support of these issues.