City Hall: City Experts Offer Advance Prognosis Of Effects Of Federal Legislation

Thomas K. Duane

November 16, 2009

By Selena Ross On the pavement of 47th Street in midtown Manhattan, below the offices of Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, toddlers waved balloon animals in the air, signs reading “Senator Schumer, Stand Up for Children’s Health,” strapped to their strollers.


“We need to reward the states like New York that have done well,” said Marian Wright Edelman, the director of Children’s Defense Fund, during a slow moment at the rally. “How can we conceive that in the richest nation on earth they are talking about reform legislation that would leave children worse off?” While the debate over federal health care reform legislation continues, in New York City, local health experts look on warily as they expect potential massive changes to the city’s health system.

S-CHIP, the public children’s health plan, faces elimination if its current provisions expire after 2013, as currently planned in the House. The Senate must choose between an expiration date of 2013 or 2019 for the program.

But Medicaid coverage is perhaps the biggest issue for New York, a so-called “do-gooder” state that provides far more coverage than the federal government requires. Tom Duane, the chair of the State Senate Health Committee, has said for months that the state will lose out if the federal government does not continue to provide matching funds for New York’s extensive coverage.

The cost of private insurance is almost as much a concern. Most experts say that the Senate bill as it stands will not make insurance cheaper for New Yorkers who buy their own plans or employers who provide group coverage, and the bill is expected to make Americans legally required to buy coverage.

Meanwhile, public hospitals in the city continue to struggle. The Health and Hospitals Corporation announced a hiring freeze and service cuts last March, and advocates say that public hospitals have reached a breaking point between the recession and this year’s budget cuts.

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