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Empire Justice Center Testimony on Health & Medicaid in the 2011-12 Executive Budget Proposal

March 3, 2011


Prepared by:


Thank you for the opportunity to testify on the health portion of the Executive Budget proposal.  My name is Cathy Roberts and I am a Senior Paralegal in the Albany office of the Empire Justice Center.  Empire Justice is a statewide legal services organization with offices in Albany, Rochester, White Plains and Central Islip (Long Island).  We provide support and training to legal services and other community-based organizations, undertake policy research and analysis, and engage in legislative and administrative advocacy.  We also represent low-income individuals, as well as classes of New Yorkers, in a wide range of poverty law areas, including access to health care.  We also serve on the steering committee of Medicaid Matters New York, a coalition of over 130 consumer advocacy groups across the state.  

As New York continues to grapple with the aftermath of the recession, it is essential that we do not forget that there are many among us that are still in its epicenter.  There continues to be little evidence that prospects are improving for low income and low skilled New Yorkers.  Indeed, most signs tell us just the opposite.  Unemployment in New York remains high, averaging 810,000 in 2010, which is 90% higher than in 2007.  The recession drove New York’s poverty rate up to 15.8% in 2009 with pockets of much higher poverty in many areas of the state. 

It is against this backdrop of increased poverty and persistent unemployment that we make our comments about the Health budget.  While the Medicaid program is an inevitable target in the push to achieve savings, it is also a lifeline for unemployed and low-income New Yorkers, as well as a jobs engine in many of our communities.  Growth in the Medicaid program is not a bad thing in and of itself if the program can help bridge access to more affordable private health insurance under federal health care reform, if we can get the support we need from the federal government and if Medicaid spending can slow the ballooning costs of health care generally. 

In the testimony below, we comment first on the proposals that have emerged from the Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT), which are reflected in the Governor’s 30 day amendments.  We then turn to proposed changes to the EPIC program for New York’s seniors.

Click here to read full testimony.