On March 3, Shelly Nortz of the Coalition for the Homeless Albany Office testified before the New York State Legislature regarding the 2011-2012 Executive Budget Proposal for Health. She underscored several of our recommendations to the Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT) which were not scored or evaluated by the Team. She asked the Legislature to include them in the budget to both improve the health of homeless people and save taxpayers money.
Our recommendations include:
- Maximize participation in federal disability benefits for high cost homeless people with disabilities.
- Maximize participation in Medicaid by eliminating "Hospital Medicaid" and replacing it with Medicaid Managed Care/Behavioral Carve-out/Health Home/Special Needs Plan Enrollment on the spot for those in hospitals.
- Include recipients with no address in factoring rates for Medicaid Managed Care and any behavioral carve-out plans.
- Continue the voluntary homeless exemption from mandatory enrollment in Medicaid Managed Care to allow homeless people continuity of care with treating providers, including healthcare for the homeless centers.
- Establish Housing Vouchers for 2,000 high cost mentally ill Medicaid recipients with unstable housing.
We also commented on several additional MRT issues that impact our clients. We are appreciative that a NY/NY IV housing agreement is being contemplated to help people live in the community instead of nursing homes, and ask that any such agreement also include 4,000 units per year for the first three years to provide supportive housing for homeless people with disabilities. We are also eager to join in the discussions about how homeless people may be best served though a Health and Hospitals Corporation "Special Needs Plan/Health Homes initiative," and urge that the Corporation adopt new approaches that emphasize recovery, rehabilitation, and housing. We would also like homeless people, who often do not have enough money for the subway, to be exempt from co-pays so that they do not act as a barrier to people accessing primary care that can help avert costly emergency room and inpatient hospital costs for poorly managed chronic conditions.
On a broader issue, in a time of record homelessness, we also ask that the NYS Division of the Budget un-freeze homeless housing at the Office of Mental Health, and urge that this and future budgets be balanced in part through an extension of the surcharge on high-income earners. The potential expiration of the surcharge would create a $5 billion hole in the budget next year, and would result in drastic cuts to health, education and human services.
Read the full testimony here.
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