All New York City residents will be guaranteed health care under a city program, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday.
NYC Care will aim to reach 600,000 New Yorkers who don’t currently have health insurance, de Blasio said. Those people include “young invincibles,” who think they don’t need health care, people who can’t afford the plans currently offered by the public health insurance exchange, MetroPlus, and "undocumented New Yorkers" who are not eligible for the exchange, the mayor said.
The program will be operational this year, and New Yorkers will be able to call 311 or go to the nyc.gov website to apply for a card and get the name of an NYC Health + Hospitals primary care doctor. Information on the immigration status of NYC Care enrollees "will not be accessible" to the federal government, the mayor said.
Participants will have guaranteed access to specialists, prescriptions, mental health services, substance abuse services and more, de Blasio said.
The mayor did not give specifics about the cost of the care, but said there will be “a sliding scale,” and if someone is not able to pay at all, it will be free. “No one will be turned away,” he said at a news conference Tuesday morning.
NYC Care will not be offered as an insurance plan. Instead, the city will be “paying for direct, comprehensive care (not just ERs) for people who can't afford it, or can't get comprehensive Medicaid,” de Blasio spokesman Eric Phillips said on Twitter.
The city also will work toward enrolling more people who are eligible for and able to afford the public health insurance exchange, MetroPlus, but enrollment is not required to benefit from NYC Care.
The program has an expected annual cost of $100 million, but de Blasio noted that the city will not raise taxes to pay for it.
“There is a lot of money right now in our health system that can be used a lot better,” he said, explaining that by putting money toward providing preventative care, fewer people will end up in emergency rooms, where care is much more expensive.
The mayor noted that Health + Hospitals is currently running on a surplus, which also is “part of what’s allowing for” NYC Care.
De Blasio contrasted his plan with efforts in Washington, D.C., to roll back the Affordable Care Act, former President Barack Obama’s signature program that President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans have vowed to repeal.
“Lots of time and energy has been put into taking away health care from tens of millions of people,” he said. “We’re going the opposite direction. We’re going to get it to everyone.”
A federal judge in Texas ruled in December that the ACA’s individual mandate, which requires coverage, is unconstitutional, and therefore the law could not stand. However, the ACA remains in effect while being challenged by several state attorneys general.
De Blasio's announcement comes a day after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo also vowed to counter actions in Washington.
The governor urged the legislature to pass the Reproductive Health Act and the Contraceptive Care Act, saying New Yorkers' reproductive rights are threatened by a conservative Supreme Court that may overturn Roe v. Wade protections.