North Country health care workers rally to raise Medicaid reimbursement

Published: Apr. 5, 2023 at 4:49 PM EDT

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) - New York legislative leaders last week missed the deadline for adopting a new state budget as they negotiate with fellow Democrat Gov. Kathy Hochul over key measures. The governor is also facing a budget backlash from North Country health care workers, who rallied Wednesday in Plattsburgh over what they say is a widening Medicaid reimbursement gap.

“We are in the midst of a health care crisis,” said Mary Wilsie, vice president of the 1199 Service Employees International Union North Country Branch.

Health care workers say the governor is neglecting the North Country’s health care needs in her proposed FY 2024 budget. SEIU members joined with Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital workers Wednesday to protest the budget’s proposed cuts to health care. They say it fails to grasp the gravity of the crisis facing New York’s health care system

“The Medicaid gap means health care workers will continue to be paid at lower rates than we deserve. The Medicaid gap also means health care workers are working understaffed and longer hours. Health care workers like me are tired, we cannot take any more,” said Patricia Florence with CVPH.

They say the proposed 5% Medicaid rate increase included in the budget is offset by cuts in other areas such as a $700 million cut from safety net hospitals, and fails to provide adequate funding increases to nursing homes as they struggle to recruit and retain staff.

“New York State has not raised the Medicaid payments paid to nursing homes in the last 15 years, except for a meager 1% raise in 2022 for inflation. Who would work for 15 years without a pay raise? I certainly wouldn’t,” said Mary Tashjian with Alice Hyde Medical Center in Malone.

The health care workers are asking for elected officials to invest $2.5 billion in health care, including an increase of Medicaid reimbursement rates by 10% for hospitals and 20% for nursing homes, THey also want a $600 million increase in safety-net funding and for the minimum wage for home care workers to be raised to $21.25 by 2027.

Assemblyman Billy D. Jones, D-Chateaugay Lake says he supports the efforts. “We’re asking to be put on par so that they can provide services that can provide the services that our community needs,” he said.

“For every bill they turn in under Medicaid for providing patient care or resident care, they only get 75% of that. So, automatically, they’re losing 25% right out of the gate,” Wilsie said. “We want to let the governor know, you know, don’t forget us. We are here and the care that we provide to our communities matters.”