Earlier this year, NYSNA nurses organized, rallied, and lobbied for the passage of the Enhanced Safety Net Hospital bill. In June, near the very end of the legislative session, both the New York State Assembly and the New York State Senate held votes on the bill (A9476A) (S 6948A Enhanced Safety Net). It passed with unanimous votes in both the New York State Assembly and New York State Senate with votes of 100-0 and 62-0, a huge end of session victory for NYSNA nurses and our patients. The bill creates a fairer, more equal state funding formula for safety net hospitals that provide a significant level of care for low-income, uninsured, and vulnerable patients in urban and rural areas.
Smarter use of public funds
The historic bill designates public hospitals and hospitals in low-income and high-need communities as “enhanced safety net” facilities, making them eligible for higher Medicaid reimbursement rates, and filling startling gaps in funding that keep our hospitals from meeting the needs of vulnerable patients. Finally, after 40 years of the current Medicaid reimbursement system, the money will follow the patients and go where the resources are needed the most.
The bill provides an avenue for additional funding for safety net facilities and, importantly, it narrows the definition of a safety net hospital, helping to address the unfair distribution of hospital funding. The redefinition of safety net facilities means that hospitals with higher percentages of well-off private payer insurance patients will no longer be able to siphon away funds intended for our most poorly funded hospitals. Rather, key funding will focus on the facilities that care for the most Medicaid and uninsured patients, ensuring that resources go where they are needed the most. For many hospitals this will mean enhanced and fairer reimbursement rates.
True meaning of safety net
The new definition of enhanced safety net hospitals includes:
1. Any private hospital that meets all of the following criteria:
- 50% or more of all patients treated (inpatient and outpatient) receive Medicaid or are medically uninsured; and
- 40% or more of inpatient discharges are covered by Medicaid; and,
- No more than 25% of inpatient discharges are covered by private insurance; and
- At least 3% of patients receiving services are uninsured; and
- Provides care to uninsured patient in all services, including emergency, hospital based and community clinics, dental and prenatal care.
2. Any public hospital operated by a county, municipality or public benefit corporation, regardless of its patient population characteristics.
3. Any hospital that is federally designated as a critical access or sole community provider facility.
Many of these critical hospitals that provide services at a loss to our most vulnerable communities are under severe financial stress that threatens their continued viability. This important legislation will sustain critical access for patients across the state – not just in New York City but also in rural areas where high-need patients depend on their local hospital for care.
Assembly Member and sponsor of the bill Richard Gottfried told Politico, “The bill is important for creating a mechanism to deliver needed aid to truly needy hospitals [such as] New York City Health + Hospitals, other public hospitals, hospitals with high volumes of Medicaid and uninsured patients, and many rural hospitals.”
The backbone of healthcare
Safety net hospitals are the backbone of New York’s healthcare system. For too long, nurses and other caregivers at these facilities have struggled to provide quality care without sufficient resources to meet patient needs. Now, through this bill, our hospitals have a means to gain the necessary resources to care for our state’s most vulnerable patients. As nurses, that means our facilities will be able to afford the equipment and staffing that our patients so desperately need.
Call to action
The bill is now awaiting Governor Cuomo’s signature before it can become law. Governor Cuomo has supported nurses by signing the Safe Patient Handling Act. Now, we’re asking him to support New York’s most vulnerable patients.
The bill received letters of support to Governor Cuomo from patient advocates, labor organizations, and a broad spectrum of nearly 40 community organizations, from the African Services Committee to Youth Action Programs.
You can take action now by signing the petition asking Governor Cuomo to sign the bill. Type in this link in your web browser to add your name to the petition: bit.ly/NYsafetynet.