Saturday, May 15

Community providers must be supported

Community providers must be supported

Community health providers would lose about $ 240 million, according to an analysis by the End AIDS NY 2020 Coalition. / Archive

Photo: Mariela Lombard / El Diario NY

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on many New York City communities. It would be difficult to find a New Yorker who has not lost a family member, friend, acquaintance, or coworker to the virus. But as we’ve seen with other public health crises, including the HIV epidemic, poor, black and Latino communities have been the hardest hit. For example, the borough of the Bronx that I represent in the State Senate had the worst per capita death rate in New York City during the first wave of the pandemic.

This pandemic has once again highlighted the shameful health disparities that persist in our society. Communities of color and Latino communities were already facing a public health crisis before the pandemic, and community health providers were doing everything they could to help the most vulnerable New Yorkers, with limited resources.

As New York State continues to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine, Governor Cuomo identified community providers to provide health care to communities of color and Latino communities that have been hardest hit by the virus. Yet at the same time, the New York State Department of Health (DOH) is changing how the state pays for drugs under the Medicaid program, threatening the survival of these same providers. community health.

This policy change was made last year during the Medicaid II Program Redesign process that the Governor rushed through during the state budget. Instead of pharmacy benefits being managed by health plans as they are today, under this change, these benefits would be managed by the state.

Due to this change, community health providers will no longer be eligible for drug company discounts, known as 340B discounts, when purchasing medications for their patients. According to an analysis by the End AIDS NY 2020 Coalition, this would take some $ 240 million from these community health providers.

I have seen firsthand how these providers operating in my district – Acacia Network, Union Community Health Center, VIP Community Services, BOOM Health, and Morris Heights Health Center – have used this revenue to provide important services to more than 100,000 vulnerable residents of the Bronx. Callen Lorde, an organization serving the LGBTQ communities of Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx, will have to lay off nurses and other staff after losing this income.

Why threaten the viability of these community health providers while at the same time asking them to play a critical role in our battle against the greatest public health crisis in recent years? We cannot address latent health disparities in our communities, while taking income from the very organizations that are saving the lives of our neighbors on a daily basis.

Governor Cuomo and the New York State Department of Health must scrap this far-fetched plan. Therefore, I have proposed a bill that I am trying to include in the state budget this year, which will delay the implementation of this cut for three years. This will give these providers enough time to recover from the financial pressures of the pandemic and focus on the essential work they are doing. Let’s not be too quick to support the wrong policy at the wrong time.

Gustavo Rivera represents the 33rd Senate District in The Bronx. Serves as Chairman of the State Senate Health Committee.

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