On Thursday, March 18, New York City Council Health Committee Chair Mark Levine and community leaders from the Save NY’s Safety Net coalition held a virtual press conference and addressed the mounting opposition to the Medicaid pharmacy carve-out. Apicha CHC's CEO, Therese R. Rodriguez, was a speaker at the press conference, advocating for protecting the 340B program.
Opposition reached a new level as the NYC Council passed a Resolution sponsored by Councilman Levine, demanding the New York State Governor and the State Legislature immediately eliminate the State’s plan to carve-out the federal 340B drug discount program from the Medicaid managed care program in the current state budget.
Momentum had built over the week, days after the state Assembly and Senate each presented budget proposals striking down or delaying the proposed Medicaid pharmacy carve-out. While both houses moved to prevent the carve-out from taking place, the Assembly version of the budget delays the cuts, while the Senate version is a full repeal.
The City Council vote comes after a year of advocates fighting tirelessly to prevent the catastrophic cuts. The state’s plan to “carve-out” Medicaid prescription drugs would have disastrous effects on care centers and would devastate 340B drug discount program providers including community health centers, hospitals and HIV care management organizations.
The 340B program allows safety net providers to purchase deeply discounted drugs and use the savings to provide essential services from housing aid to food assistance for low-income New Yorkers. Albany’s plan is scheduled to take effect on May 1, 2021 and will cause widespread and disastrous consequences statewide.
"Apicha Community Health Center lauds the New York City Council for passing Resolution 1529, in support of Save New York’s Safety Net Coalition’s efforts to reject the New York State’s Medicaid pharmacy benefit “carve-out”. Preserving access to quality, affordable healthcare for the most vulnerable New Yorkers is critical in ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic, as well as addressing COVID-19 pandemic.
Formerly Asian and Pacific Islander Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Apicha began 30 years ago as a grassroots advocacy organization fighting for resources to address the unmet HIV/AIDS needs in the Asian and Pacific Islander communities. We transformed into a Federally Qualified Health Center five years ago. It was a journey of survival and determination.
Apicha’s recognition as a Federally Qualified Health Center opened access to federal funds for long-term sustainability. With that support we expanded primary care services and support services. We expanded who we serve. The 340B program allowed Apicha to develop the organizational infrastructure to continue and strengthen services to some of the most vulnerable NYC residents--- immigrants of limited English proficiency, the LGBTQI and communities of color.
The COVID-19 pandemic underlined the fact that being a successful Federally Qualified Health Center requires much more than providing routine medical care. It requires the nimbleness to quickly pivot to telemedicine and support large-scale testing and vaccination efforts. It requires the resources to effectively address our patients’ new-found economic hardships and the mental health issues created from uncertainty, isolation, and stigma. The Asian and Pacific Islander community, long served by Apicha, and the rest of New York’s community of color, are experiencing a unique trauma in this moment – in the past year, we’ve heard of over 3,000 anti-Asian attacks. Attacks we cannot just vaccinate our way out of. These are not new to America. Anti-Asian exclusion and violence fill many pages of our lives but missing in this country’s history books.
Now more than ever, savings from the 340B program gives health centers, CBOs and other health providers the resource to work towards health equity for our
underserved communities. Thank you, Mark Levine, and the New York City Council for doing what is right."
Other organizations also voiced their support for the 340B program
“The funds generated by the 340B program are critical to New York City’s ability to wage a wide range of public health battles, including against COVID. This program is a vital tool in our efforts to tear down the systematic inequalities in the health system,” said Health Chair Mark Levine. “It is therefore utterly indefensible that the State would consider eliminating this critical program, especially at the height of a pandemic that has ravaged low-income communities in our city. Albany must reverse this carve-out immediately and restore funding to the communities that need it the most. I am grateful that my colleagues in the City Council are going on record against what would be draconian cuts during a generational health crisis.”
“Callen-Lorde is immensely grateful to the NYC Council for passing Resolution 1529 and to the state Assembly and Senate for articulating a solution to the pharmacy carve-out in their one-house budgets,” said Wendy Stark, Executive Director for the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center. “It’s clear that there is growing support to put an end to this devastating plan. We stand ready to be a resource for New York’s policy and decision makers - as they deliberate a final New York State budget - to protect our state’s healthcare safety net.”
“Harlem United thanks the NYC Council for passing Resolution 1529 and standing up for NY’s safety net providers and the communities we serve,” said Jacquelyn Kilmer, CEO of Harlem United. “It is critically important to the health and safety of NY’s most vulnerable and underserved communities--the very communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic--that the pharmacy carve-out be rejected. If implemented, the carve-out will victimize the communities who already face significant barriers to effective disease prevention and treatment and will further limit their access to care.”
“We stand with Councilman Levine and the City Council and wholeheartedly support the
passage of this resolution,” said Charles King, CEO and Co-founder, Housing Works. “The
340B pharmaceutical benefit carve-out could essentially destroy the current community
healthcare safety net. Community health centers, Ryan White clinics and other similar
healthcare providers are among the best means at our disposal to deliver the COVID-19
vaccine, support people with COVID-19 and provide a statewide means of healthcare delivery that provides real health equity for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities across the state.”
“Ryan Health applauds the New York City Council and the Health Committee under the
leadership of Chair Mark Levine for passing a resolution standing with vulnerable New Yorkers and opposing the misguided Medicaid pharmacy carveout,” said Brian McIndoe, President and CEO, Ryan Health. “Our 340B savings have allowed us to extend lifesaving services to our patients and community members both during the COVID-19 pandemic and pre-pandemic. We keep our patients healthy and out of overburdened emergency rooms and hospitals. If the carveout moves forward, it will have a devastating impact on the healthcare safety net and communities throughout New York City and across the state.”
For more information on the coalition and the campaign, visit www.savenysafetynet.com.
About Save NY’s Safety Net: 340B Saves Lives
Save New York’s Safety Net: 340B Saves Lives is a statewide coalition of community health clinics and community-based organizations that is committed to serving vulnerable New Yorkers across the state, ending the AIDS epidemic and saving the 340B drug discount program.