Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas, Advocates, Healthcare Organizations, and Business Groups Call for Passage of Legislation to Direct the Commissioner of Health to Amend the 1332 State Innovation Waiver To Provide Healthcare to Undocumented New Yorkers
ALBANY, NY – Today, Assemblymembers Jessica González-Rojas, Phara Souffrant Forrest, Catalina Cruz, and Marcela Mitaynes joined healthcare organizations and business groups to call for the state legislature to pass A3020A/S2237A, which would provide healthcare to undocumented New Yorkers.
Last week, Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas, State Senator Gustavo Rivera, Chair of the Senate Health Committee, and Assembly Health Committee Chair Amy Paulin sent a letter with more than 60 legislators to the federal government. In the letter, they asked for guidance on how to utilize the Medicaid State Innovation Waiver to provide healthcare to undocumented New Yorkers. Now, the federal government has confirmed that New York can use pass-through 1332 federal funds – as Colorado and Washington have done – to provide healthcare to undocumented people.
Following this confirmation, legislators and groups called for the State Senate and Assembly to report the legislation out of the Ways and Means and Finance or Rules committees and to the floor for a vote. This development also comes after the Minnesota legislature considers expanding healthcare for 40,000 Minnesotans via state funding.
“The federal government has now confirmed what we have known for months, which is that New York State can provide coverage to hundreds of thousands of undocumented New Yorkers and save the state money at the same time. It is time for the legislature to pass A3020A/S2237A and direct the Commissioner of Health to amend the 1332 waiver to follow Colorado and Washington and provide healthcare to low-income undocumented New Yorkers. We’ve lost thousands of New Yorkers to COVID-19 because they lacked coverage. We can now change course and save lives and we must,” said Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas
Paul Zuber, Executive Vice President at The Business Council of NYS said, “The Business Council knows that access to quality healthcare creates economic opportunity and a stronger workforce. Coverage4All utilizes existing infrastructure, saves the state $500 million in emergency Medicaid spending, and extends healthcare coverage to New York immigrants who need it now. This is a critical step to closing the healthcare coverage gap in a fiscally responsible way and bringing New York closer to universal coverage. For us, this is a no-brainer.”
“Ensuring that everyone has health insurance is good for all New Yorkers – regardless of their immigration status,” said Eric Linzer, President & CEO of the NY Health Plan Association. “New York has made tremendous progress in expanding coverage to millions of residents and this legislation would be an important step in furthering the goal of universal coverage.”
Jennifer Clarke-Craig, Health Advocate at the Healthcare Education Project 1199SEIU/GNYHA said “As an advocacy organization we see the critical importance of comprehensive health coverage for individuals regardless of immigration status. Increasingly we also see families in need of mental and behavioral health services who are not able to obtain them due to lack of insurance coverage, and suffer dire consequences as a result of this inequity.”
Rose Duhan, CEO of the Community Healthcare Association of New York said “Healthcare is a basic human right, and it is our collective responsibility to break down the barriers that prevent people from accessing the care they deserve. CHCANYS urges the New York State Legislature to pass this life-changing legislation, which would expand healthcare coverage to undocumented immigrants. Doing so will ensure that every New Yorker, regardless of their immigration status, has access to the care they need to live a healthy life.”
“Expanding eligibility for the NY Essential Plan to individuals who face barriers for such coverage solely due to their immigration status, not only makes fiscal sense for the State, but it’s the right thing to do,” said Andrew Biernat, Media Chair and Past President of the New York State Association of Health Underwriters (NYSAHU). “The Coverage4All bill, S.2237A (Rivera) / A.3020A (Gonzalez-Rojas), is thus a big step toward universal health coverage for all New Yorkers, one of the top priorities for NYSAHU’s health insurance brokers, agents, and benefits consultant members.”
Gabina Santamaria, member of Make the Road New York, said “I have struggled accessing necessary health services for the past 22 years. As a household cleaner, I’ve been exposed to harsh chemicals and dangerous working conditions. This impacts my health, and I am not eligible for health insurance due to my immigration status. New York State can turn this around, by amending the 1332 waiver and using federal funds to expand the Essential Plan to thousands of uninsured New Yorkers, like me, by passing Coverage for All this session.”
Hon. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Senate Majority Leader
Room 907, LOB
Albany, NY 12247
Hon. Carl Heastie, Assembly Speaker
Room 932, LOB
Albany, NY 12248
Dear Leader Stewart-Cousins and Speaker Heastie:
On behalf of a coalition of organizations representing consumers, employers, immigrants, and health plans that are committed to ensuring access to high-quality, affordable health care, we are writing to express our support for S.2237A (Rivera)/A.3020A (Gonzalez-Rojas). The legislation would seek to provide coverage through the Essential Plan (EP) to individuals who would otherwise meet enrollment criteria but are currently precluded from participating based on their immigration status.
Specifically, S.2237A/A.3020A would direct the Commissioner of Health to amend the 1332 waiver request to the Federal government, to then use the federal “pass through” funding to enable individuals who would otherwise meet the criteria to enroll in the program but are currently precluded from participating based on their immigration status. While the New York Department of Health (DOH) as well as the New York State Legislature recently sent requests to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services seeking a formal opinion on the permissibility of seeking a 1332 State Innovation Waiver to utilize funds in the 1332 “passthrough” surplus account and/or the existing EP Trust Fund, the legislation is still needed to require the state to expand coverage through the waiver request.
New York has historically been a national leader when it comes to addressing the health needs of our immigrant community. Other states, including California, Minnesota, Colorado and Washington, have moved forward with covering immigrants, either through expanding Medicaid coverage or a 1332 waiver. Ensuring that everyone has health insurance is good for all New Yorkers – regardless of their immigration status – and expanding coverage would help to support financially stressed providers as the costs related to uncompensated care places a burden on our safety net hospitals. Passing this legislation, will not only allow New York to access federal dollars, but it would also save the state about $500 million a year on what it currently spends on Emergency Medicaid for this population.
The legislation would be an important step to building a more equitable health care system for all of the State’s residents and we appreciate your commitment to these individuals by passing the Coverage4all bill this session. With seven (7) days remaining in the legislative session, the bill would help to narrow the coverage gap and further the goal of achieving universal coverage.
For all these reasons, we urge you to pass S.2237A/A.3020A.
Community Service Society of NY
The Business Council of New York State
Make the Road New York
Health Care for All New York
Community Health Care Association of New York State
New York Health Plan Association
New York State Conference of Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans
Healthcare Education Project 1199SEIU/GNYHA
New York State Association of Health
Underwriters The New York Immigration Coalition