Win for rural and urban safety nets

(l to r) Jennifer Brinkworth, RN and Joan Bruce, RN.

As 2016 drew to a close, the Enhanced Safety Net Hospital Act — having passed both the Assembly and Senate unanimously — hit the wall. With uncertainties emanating from impending changes in Washington, Governor Cuomo decided to take no action. The Act died.

But it was swiftly rejuvenated this year in the form of $40 million budgeted for safety net hospitals. Progress was made for “true” safety nets: public hospitals and other facilities caring for the highest numbers of Medicaid and uninsured patients, and isolated rural hospitals deemed “critical access hospitals.” Each category, urban safety nets and rural critical access hospitals, received $20 million allocations in the state budget.

The possibility of federal matching exists, which would bring funding to $80 million. Bringing these important definitions into the legal venacular is also a victory, as these categories of safety net care are further established in our state’s healthcare system.

Jennifer Brinkworth, RN, Erie County Medical Center

“There is another victory in this year's budget for underserved and vulnerable New Yorkers: a second $20 million for federally-designated rural “critical access hospitals.”

“Too often, rural hospitals are the only source of care for people in our state and without them there is no care.”

“The funds are a concrete recognition of the absolute necessity of critical access hospitals. The funds express the need for greater fairness and equality in our healthcare system.”

“This was a real coalition victory and NYSNA worked hard to see it through. I am very proud of our efforts.”

“There is even more to celebrate. It is possible that these payments could be federally matched, which would double the funding for urban safety nets and rural critical access hospitals to a total of $80 million.”

“Also, and important, the definition of terms we use for “enhanced safety net hospitals” is now part of the state’s health law.”

“Great work NYSNA and great work on the part of our allies and coalition partners!”

Joan Bruce, RN, Bronx Lebanon Hospital

“You don’t have to work in the South Bronx to be concerned about funding for safety net hospitals.”

“Because in many cities in our state, Medicaid funding is not fairly allocated to the hospitals providing care for Medicaid patients and the uninsured.”

“That is wrong.”

“Together with many allies — unions of doctors, residents and interns, District 37 AFSCME, the Committee for the Public Health System, the Save Our Safety Net Campaign, the New York Immigration Coalition and others, a movement dedicated to serving the underserved worked towards passage of the Enhanced Safety Net Hospital bill last year.”

“Well, through these efforts, we won an important victory in this year’s budget process: $20 million for enhanced safety-net hospitals with the highest numbers of Medicaid and uninsured.”

“It is a significant victory, both in terms of actual dollars and symbolically because with these funds, New York recognizes the notion of “true” safety net hospitals.”

“That is something to celebrate and for NYSNA to take its share of credit.”

Above are excerpts from speeches delivered at NYSNA’s April 25 Lobby Day.

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