By Bill Parry
Mayor Bill de Blasio surprised a national morning news audience Tuesday when he announced his administration will launch the largest, most comprehensive plan in the nation to guarantee health care for every New Yorker.
During and appearance on MSNBC, de Blasio said the plan will serve the 600,000 New Yorkers without insurance by strengthening NYC’s public health insurance option, Metro Plus, and guaranteeing anyone eligible for insurance — including undocumented New Yorkers — has direct access to NYC Health + Hospitals’ physicians, pharmacies and mental health and substance abuse services through a new program called NYC Care.
All services will be affordable on a sliding scale. The programs will include customer-friendly call lines to help New Yorkers — regardless of their insurance — make appointments with general practitioners, cardiologists, pediatricians, gynecologists and a full spectrum of health care services.
“Health care is a right, not a privilege reserved for those who can afford it,” de Blasio said. “While the federal government works to cut health care for millions of Americans, New York City is leading the way by guaranteeing that every New Yorker has access to quality, comprehensive access to care, regardless of immigration status or their ability to pay.”
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, about 8 million New Yorkers now have health insurance, and the uninsured rate is about nearly half of what it was in 2013. In the last two years, the city’s Public Engagement Unit coordinated signing up more than 130,000 New Yorkers for plans created by the law. However, about 600,000 New Yorkers remain without insurance because they do not or can not enroll, according to City Hall.
Locally, Queens lawmakers were quick to support the NYC Cares program.
“Health care is a human right. Every New Yorker, no matter their race or gender, sexual orientation, or socio-economic status should have accessible and reliable health care,” state Sen. Jessica Ramos said. “This is also why I continue to fight for single payer healthcare as a New York State Senator.”
The city is taking an unprecedented approach to health care services by tackling mental and physical issues holistically. Through both programs, New Yorkers will be able to access addiction services and opioid treatment, mental health counseling, and counseling services for trauma victims. New Yorkers will be able to call MetroPlus or 311 to be screened for health insurance eligibility and get connected to the best coverage options.
“Providing healthcare to all NYC residents — including addiction, rehabilitation and mental health services — is a monumental step towards the delivery of necessary treatment for all,” state Assemblyman Michael Dendekker said. “I look forward to working with the administration to implement real affordable medical treatment for each and every NYC resident.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr