Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled on Tuesday NYC Care, a comprehensive plan to provide health care to all New York City residents, including undocumented immigrants. The new program will serve an estimated uninsured 600,000 New Yorkers.
“Health care is a right, not a privilege reserved for those who can afford it,” said de Blasio. “While the federal government works to gut health care for millions of Americans, New York City is leading the way by guaranteeing that every New Yorker has access to quality care, regardless of immigration status or their ability to pay.”
The mayor’s plan aims to boost enrollment in MetroPlus, the city’s public health insurance option, to guarantee that anyone ineligible for insurance — including undocumented New Yorkers — has direct access to NYC Health + Hospitals’ physicians, pharmacies and mental health and substance abuse services through a new program called NYC Care.
Under NYC Care, a full spectrum of health care services, ranging from general practitioners to specialty care including cardiologists, pediatricians and gynecologists, will be made available on a sliding pay scale.
“I have seen first- hand some of the disadvantages that our healthcare system deals to people who are of a different background than their provider, be it racially, culturally or economically. Everyone should have a right to affordable, safe, culturally sensitive, high-quality health care regardless of their economic situations,” said Flatbush Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte. “With NYC Care, the citizens of this great city can finally exercise that right.”
The surprise announcement was met with support, but also questions from Brooklyn elected officials including Borough President Eric Adams and Flatbush Councilmember Jumaane Williams.
Adams called the mayor’s move “a watershed moment” but also raised questions regarding the program’s affordability, and how it will reshape NYC’s existing health care system.
“As this plan moves forward, my administration looks forward to answers on questions such as the details of the plan’s financing, the impact on existing health care programs and the quality of care that will be offered within the public option,” said Adams. “Reforming our system also requires an emphasis on promoting preventative medicine, as well as reducing unnecessary visits to emergency rooms; these must be focus points for MetroPlus and the NYC Care program going forward.”
The new program comes with a hefty price tag, an estimated $100 million annually. But de Blasio stated that NYC Care will cut down on overall health care expenditure by covering those New Yorkers who cannot afford health insurance and often end up in the emergency room.
“The emergency room is the default health care provider for so many people in this country,” said de Blasio. “It is the worst way to get health care. It’s the most expensive way to get health care.”
Williams also wondered about de Blasio’s implementation strategy but welcomed that mental health services would be included under NYC Care.
“While many of the details of this plan still need to be expanded upon, and much relies on the implementation strategy of that plan, I am excited that both physical and mental health are taken into consideration,” said Williams. “All New Yorkers should have access to this kind of high-quality care. While the federal government is more concerned with an asinine wall than people dying because of a lack of healthcare, the city should lead the way in fulfilling the core principle that healthcare is a human right.”
NYC Care will first launch in the Bronx this summer and will be fully available across the five boroughs by 2021.