Declaring that healthcare is "a right, not a privilege reserved for those who can afford it", New York City's Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday unveiled a plan that he said will guarantee comprehensive medical coverage to all 8.6 million city residents, including undocumented immigrants.
The mayor's two-pronged approach will harness the MetroPlus Health Plan, a subsidiary of the city's public hospital system that offers coverage to more than half-a-million New Yorkers via Medicaid, Medicare and Affordable Care Act policies.
In a tweet, de Blasio said the plan will "ensure the first stop for people isn't the emergency room".
According to de Blasio the annual cost of the program will be, at least, $100 million. The idea is to avoid going to an emergency room for non-emergency situations, freeing them up for their intended goal.
"We also have a way to provide direct health care to a lot of neighbors who happen to be undocumented - they're still part of our community, they need health care, their families need health care", de Blasio added.
"You might say 'is this something that ideally should be handled in Washington D.C. or in Albany?' Yes, it should", De Blasio said. He said that the undocumented often go to the ER for many health issues, regardless of severity, because they will not be asked for health documentation.
Eric Philips, de Blasio's press secretary, later clarified that the plan is not health insurance.
"New Yorkers need a break!" he declared, sarcastically dismissing concerns that the policy might have negative ramifications.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during a news conference at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx borough of New York City. There are now half a million working New Yorkers whose employers don't grant them any time off, something de Blasio states describes as putting the U.S. behind the rest of the world. The difference, said NYC Health and Hospitals CEO Mitchell Katz, is in the coordination that these participants will receive to get quick access to a doctor instead of showing up to an emergency room or clinic to be checked out.
"Everyone is guaranteed the right to health care, everyone", he stressed. An estimated 600,000 New Yorkers do not now have health insurance, according to the mayor's office.
City officials plan to reach out to low-income New Yorkers who qualify. Once the program is fully operational, interested parties can either call 311 or visit nyc.gov, and staff will set them up with a primary care contact.
"No one should have to live in fear", the mayor said. "It is the worst way to get health care".
Correct. NYC already has a public option. As a result, they end up in the emergency room for complaints great and small, typically receiving care for a problem that's become much more serious during the wait.