Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson (D-Bronx/Westchester) recently unveiled proposals to provide affordable health insurance to New York’s 500,000 uninsured children, lower the costs of prescription drugs for those without health insurance, and combat rising asthma rates in low-income neighborhoods.
"Treatable and preventable childhood illnesses often go undiagnosed in low-income, uninsured families," said Senator Hassell-Thompson. "If we don’t help our kids to get medical care now, chances are we will be paying more later on for emergency room visits and hospital care."
According to the Bronx/Westchester lawmaker, SenateMinority propose to make health coverage available to children at 350-percent of the Federal poverty level, which is $70,000 for a family of four. The current cut off is 250-percent or $50,000 for a family of four. Their plan establishes a new, subsidized tier to Child Health Plus, with a premium of $50 per month child, up to a maximum of $150.
Senator Hassell-Thompson said theSenate Minorityproposal will also enroll all uninsured newborns and children with asthma in high-incidence areas into Medicaid to help ensure proper medical management. "When childhood conditions like asthma, iron-deficiency anemia, and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder go untreated, they can lead to lifelong adverse affects on health and education. More kids with health coverage means a healthier head start," said Senator Hassell-Thompson.
Another proposal seeks to lower drug costs for uninsured New Yorkers. Noting that the uninsured pay twice as much on average for prescription drugs than the insured, "we’d use volume purchasing power to secure manufacturers rebates and pharmacy discounts, similar to a plan used in the state of Maine," Senator Hassell-Thompson said. "We anticipate savings for New York consumers will average about 30 percent off retail prices."
In a related measure, Senator Hassell-Thompson urged passage of S.5581, legislation she is supporting that would create a toll-free statewide number to help New Yorkers easily identify the best prescription drug prices in their neighborhoods.
"A study of prescription drug costs showed that prices vary widely from pharmacy to pharmacy, even within a small region," Senator Hassell-Thompson explained. "In New York City, for instance, the asthma drug Singulair costs between $87 to $165 depending on the pharmacy filling the prescription. Right now, comparison price shopping takes considerable time and effort."
Senator Hassell-Thompson concluded, "By providing prescription drug prices to more New Yorkers, we lower health care costs for all New Yorkers. What’s more, our package of proposals would go a long way in addressing the health care challenges facing some our most vulnerable residents–the working poor."