May 10, 2018

Spring 2018 Policy Update

During the last year, Amida Care and our partners have advocated tirelessly to maintain access to health care for those who have limited resources. While the fight has been challenging and tumultuous, it's also been filled with hope: despite long odds, we managed to avert the legislative dismantling of Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act. Still, the Trump administration is relentlessly using its power to try to undermine Medicaid and disrupt programs that help vulnerable people throughout the nation. As the year progresses, we must stay focused and continue our efforts to stop this from happening.

This update provides an overview of the recently passed NY State and Federal budgets, the work ahead, our action at AIDSWatch 2018, and opportunities to be active and influential in the upcoming 2018 election.
Budget Updates 

New York State Budget: The New York State (NYS) legislature passed a $163 billion spending plan that closed a $4.4 billion dollar deficit. Most health and Medicaid funding remain in place, but there are changes to how the Health Home program will be funded. The Health Home program enables a group of health care and service providers to work together and ensure that Medicaid recipients with chronic health problems get the comprehensive care and services they need to stay healthy.

  • The biggest contributor to closing the deficit was a plan to capture $2 billion from the sale of a non-profit managed care plan (Fidelis) to a for-profit plan (Centene).
  • Another new measure will capture $100 million from opioid manufacturers, using the funds to cover some of the cost of state-funded drug and alcohol treatment programs.
Health Home

During the budget process, the NYS Senate proposed a $200 million cut to the Health Home program--a reduction of almost one-third. Advocates mobilized 150 people to go to Albany on short notice to protest the cuts. While they prevented an extreme cut, some changes to funding of the program were either enacted in the budget or will be implemented administratively.
  • Medicaid health plans will be required to take on a larger role in outreach to Health Home-eligible Medicaid recipients.

  • NYS will implement quality, innovation, and performance initiatives, including a Health Home Quality Performance Program, beginning in October, 2018. Health Homes and care management agencies that meet these goals will be rewarded and those that underperform will face penalties.
  • NYS will set targets for health plans to enroll high-risk and high-cost members in a Health Home. Plans that don't meet the targets could face penalties, and up to 50 percent of the penalty could be passed on to the Health Home.
  • A Health Home Healthy Rewards program will be created to incentivize Health Home members to participate in wellness and preventive care.
Federal Budget: Congress passed a budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, October 2017 - September 2018, and is now working on the FY 2019 budget. The FY 2018 budget increases domestic spending by $63 billion over FY 2017, the first increase in almost 10 years.

This budget rejected drastic cuts proposed in President Trump's budget; however, the Trump administration is expected to look at ways to avoid spending Congress' appropriation of new funds by requesting rescissions. The FY 2019 Budget debate is off to a rough start in Congress, with proposals to reduce funding and eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Learn more about rescissions

AIDSWatch 2018: Preserving Medicaid and HIV Service Funding

On March 26 and 27, Amida Care representatives joined 500 people living with HIV and their allies at the U.S. Capitol for the 25th annual AIDSWatch event. AIDS Watch is the largest constituent-based HIV advocacy event in the United States. Participants worked to educate members of Congress on the need to:
  • improve access to care for people living with HIV
  • increase federal investment in HIV prevention, treatment, housing, and research
  • protect the civil rights of people living with HIV
  • promote comprehensive sexual health education
AIDSWatch participants stressed the importance of Medicaid in particular as key to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic. They asked legislators to prevent attempts to undermine Medicaid, which include converting Medicaid funding into block grants for states, imposing work requirements, and implementing Medicaid premiums or lifetime limits on Medicaid access. These drastic measures would jeopardize the health of more than 74 million Americans who count on Medicaid for health insurance, including over 400,000 people living with HIV. Forty-two percent of all people living with HIV access care and services through Medicaid, an increase of 6% as a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA Medicaid expansion has helped reduce the number of people living with HIV who are uninsured by half. 

Without access to Medicaid, many people have no choice but to visit the emergency room more frequently, are hospitalized more often, require costly nursing homes, rack up higher medical bills, and get pushed into poverty. Those higher costs are ultimately passed on to the government, insurers, and taxpayers. 

Learn more about the event

To take action to protect Medicaid, visit Medicaid is US. 


Register and don't forget to VOTE!

In New York State this year, elections will be held at the state and national levels for U.S. Senator, Governor, and NYS Senate and Assembly representatives.  Your vote matters!
Three rounds of elections are coming up:
  • June 26, U.S. (federal) primary
  • September 13, NY State primary (Please note: This year, the NY State primary falls on a Thursday)
  • November 6, general election
Throughout the past year, you have fought hard to make sure that government listens to your voice and maintains access to health care, housing, and employment. Going forward, you have the opportunity to exercise your ultimate right as a U.S. citizen: the right to vote. Voting is your moment to weigh in on the issues that matter to you by choosing the elected officials who will shape the course of our future. Your choices touch all aspects of your life, from fixing that pothole on your street to maintaining essential programs and services that keep you and your family, friends, and neighbors safe and healthy.

Regardless of your political persuasion, voting is the ultimate way to exert your power by choosing to elect candidates who represent your interests.

To register to vote, pick up a form at your local post office or library. Also visit the NYS Board of Elections or call 311 to find out how, where, and when to vote:

For more information about how to stay involved, read Amida Care's special community publication.
Amida Care in the News

On April 4,  NationSwell published the feature story, "   There is a Cure for Hepatitis C, If Only Patients Could Access It ," around access to HCV treatment and NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo's recent announcement to end HCV in New York State. The article makes the connection between ending HCV and ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic and highlights Amida Care's work to help members get treated and cured, including interviews with an Amida Care member who was successfully cured of HCV and Amida Care's Vice President of Pharmacy, Terry Leach. ´╗┐NationSwell is a national online news outlet reaching 54,531 unique monthly 
readers.    Read the full story .

The community newspaper AMNewYork featured a naloxone training by The Alliance for Positive Change for Amida Care staff in the piece, "  Can you save everyone at risk of overdosing from opioid use?," published on April 3 and reaching their 245,230 unique monthly readers.  Read the story about naloxone, which can reverse the effects of opioid overdose and help save lives. 
Amida Care's Vice President of Member Experience and Ombudsperson, Stephane Howze,
discussed health disparities, the importance of sexual health education, PrEP, and more on the LITE-FM (iHeartRadio) show, "Get Connected," on April 1.  Listen to the interview .

For LGBT Health Awareness Week, Amida Care president and CEO Doug Wirth spoke about disparities in access to the HIV prevention tool PrEP, which was broadcasted nationally on NBC News Radio on March 28.  Listen to the segment.

Amida Care has published a special community publication entitled
  Body, Mind & Spirit: A Guide to Wellness,  offering insights from Amida Care staff as well as some of Amida Care's favorite wellness coaches. Setting intentions and then making an effort to work on smoking cessation or getting better sleep sets off changes in our body-mind that can ultimately lead to clearer thinking and enhanced moods. Also discussed in this publication are the surprising benefits yielded by reaching out to others through volunteer work or by affirming our rights as citizens through registering for and voting in elections. Read the magazine in English or in Spanish .