Op-Ed | Don’t balance the budget on the backs of those who need help

Assemblyman David Weprin
Photo courtesy of NYS Assembly
Our annual budgets express our values as a state and, to a large degree, determine our fate as citizens. That’s why it’s so important to me to fight the cuts Governor Hochul wants to make in next year’s budget to the consumer directed personal assistance program (CDPAP). Cutting back this program when the need for home care is growing would be heartless and shortsighted. Not only would it harm my constituents it would actually cost the state more, rather than saving money.
More than half of the state’s Medicaid home care clients are enrolled in CDPAP. And no wonder it’s popular – the program lets people choose their own caregivers and trains them to deliver care. They can even hire family members if they choose, providing family caregivers with a way to take care of their loved ones without bankrupting themselves by taking too much time off work.
Being able to hire family members also ensures that CDPAP clients have caregivers who speak their language and understand their culture. I’m a proud representative of District 24 in the heart of Queens, “the world’s borough,” one of the most diverse districts in the nation. About a third of my neighbors are of South Asian descent. The South Asian population is very diverse, including people from Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Guyana, and more, not to mention Muslims, Hindus and Christians. They speak many languages, observe many customs, and have many dietary needs, from halal to vegetarian.
The governor’s proposed cuts would take more than a billion dollars a year from the CDPAP program. That would put the many agencies in my district in danger of closing. Without access to consumer-directed care, my neighbors would be left trying to access traditional home care. Since New York has the worst shortage of home care workers in the nation, many of them would come up short. Even those who succeeded would be less likely to find workers who spoke their language or shared their culture. And in the end, many would fail, winding up in nursing homes or hospitals, both of which cost the state far more than CDPAP care.
The CDPAP program has been serving us well for more than a generation. As our population ages—a quarter of all New Yorkers will be 60 or older by next year—and the demand for home care grows, this is no time to cut back on a culturally sensitive and fiscally responsible form of care. Nearly all of us will need assistance at some point in our lives, if we don’t already, and everyone would prefer to get that care at home if possible. Instead of trying to balance our budget on the backs of those of us who need help with daily activities, we need to look for new ways to pay for their care.
A bill I cosponsored this year, the Home Care Savings & Reinvestment Act, would restore billions to the state’s home care program by eliminating the private insurance companies that are currently taking state Medicaid dollars and doling them out to home care agencies. These companies siphon up to $3 billion a year in administrative costs and profits. We need to eliminate these middlemen and free up the taxpayer dollars they have been pocketing to pay for the home care they were intended for.
Meanwhile, I will continue to fight the proposed cuts that threaten my neighbors’ right to culturally appropriate care.
*Assemblyman David Weprin represents District 24 in Queens, comprising the neighborhoods of Richmond Hill and parts of Briarwood, Jamaica Estates, Jamaica Hills, Hollis and Oakland Gardens.