Council Unveils Healthcare Access Legislation

Council Unveils Healthcare Access Legislation

Photo Courtesy of John McCarten/NY City Council

“The bill we are introducing today will guarantee that primary care is an option for every New Yorker in every neighborhood, at a public hospital or at a community-based clinic,” Councilwoman Rivera said.

By Michael V. Cusenza
Three members of the City Council on Thursday introduced legislation to create a citywide healthcare program that would greatly increase access to care in the five boroughs, connecting all participants to coordinated, personalized care in their communities.
According to City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Council Health Committee Chairman Mark Levine (D-Manhattan), and Council Hospitals Committee Chairwoman Carlina Rivera (D-Manhattan), the bill would require the City to develop and administer a program that would offer individuals a medical home—a model of providing care where participants have a primary care physician and/or practitioner to develop, direct, and coordinate their treatment, testing, and service—and assign each participant a patient navigator to serve as a personal medical concierge. The concierge will assist with coordinating primary and specialty care, accessing medication, and understanding/minimizing costs.
The program, according to the council, would benefit individuals without health insurance, including undocumented New Yorkers, who want care in their communities and are looking for culturally competent care as well as insured individuals seeking coordinated care or just need help navigating the healthcare system in the City. Culturally competent care includes serving the linguistic needs of patients through clinicians or interpreters and provides a diverse workforce representative of patients that is responsive to predominant social and cultural practices.
Rivera called the measure “groundbreaking.”
“An effective modern medical system starts with easy patient access to primary care. But far too many New Yorkers, from undocumented immigrants to the under or uninsured, feel they are forced to use the emergency room if they have any sort of medical condition,” she added. “The bill we are introducing today will guarantee that primary care is an option for every New Yorker in every neighborhood, at a public hospital or at a community-based clinic. I’m proud that we are working to make our city’s medical system more accessible and affordable.”
According to Johnson, Levine, and Rivera, once enacted, the proposed law would provide for medical homes that would be available in every community district in the City. Medical homes would include Health +Hospitals facilities, as well as federally qualified health centers, and other not-for-profit and private medical service providers. A hospital partner providing specialty care would be guaranteed in every borough. The City would be required to select providers that provide care that meets the primary cultural and language needs of those they serve, as well the needs of special populations, including the LGBT community. The health access program would also provide telemedicine and require providers to assist in sharing medical records. Program participants would not pay any participation fees, but may be required to pay for services on a sliding scale based on their ability to pay for provided medical services.
The legislation builds on the healthcare access plan announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio earlier this year. NYC Care, according to the de Blasio, will serve the 600,000 residents without insurance by strengthening NYC’s public health insurance option, MetroPlus, and guaranteeing anyone ineligible for insurance – including undocumented New Yorkers – has direct access to NYC Health + Hospitals’ physicians, pharmacies and mental health and substance abuse services.

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