Trillium Health Inc. has joined a statewide coalition to protest cuts to community health centers.
The Protect the Safety Net campaign, led by advocates and Medicaid patients, seeks to reverse a provision in the New York state budget that strips a critical federal benefit from health care providers and patients statewide. Campaign leaders said the “carve-out” provision harms all safety net providers in the federal 340B drug discount program and further jeopardizes the health of some of New York’s most vulnerable Medicaid recipients during the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession.
The provision, which was recommended from the Medicaid Redesign Team II and advanced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, would require the New York Medicaid program to carve out the pharmacy benefit from the state’s Medicaid managed care program and shift payment of drugs covered under that benefit to fee-for-service reimbursement.
Coalition members say that if the provision is implemented it would harm federally qualified health centers, safety-net hospitals and other safety net providers in the 340B drug discount program and adversely impact the financial stability of health care clinics across the state.
Clinics rely on the funding to operate food pantries, provide transportation assistance, offer sexually transmitted infection testing and run harm reduction programs, services they say are “grossly underfunded” by the state.
“In the rush to approve this year’s budget, a little-noticed provision was adopted that would devastate community health centers across New York State. The same clinics that have been fighting COVID-19 will be forced to eliminate services or close – leaving people living in poverty without access to testing, food pantries, transportation and housing assistance, STI screening and treatment and programs to fight the opioid epidemic,” said Andrea DeMeo, president and CEO of Trillium Health. “In addition, clinics that have been battling HIV/AIDS for decades will be financially devastated, reversing all of the progress that we’ve made in the fight against HIV. Therefore, we are calling on the governor and state legislators to reverse this harmful carve-out.”
The federal 340B Drug Discount Program is a lifeline that allows safety net providers, including HIV/AIDS clinics receiving support under the Ryan White CARE Act, to obtain prescription drugs at below-retail prices. The program was established with bipartisan support as part of the Veterans Health Care Act of 1992.
“Without this benefit, there’s no way I can afford my medicine. We have been struggling to make it through the pandemic, but this is the breaking point. I would welcome whoever came up with this terrible idea to come to my clinic and see the people impacted by this heartless decision,” said Annie Brooks, a patient at Trillium Health.
The Governor’s Medicaid Redesign Team II made budget recommendations that were approved by the Assembly and Senate and signed by Cuomo in April. The budget, including the carve-out provisions, is set to go into effect at the start of the next fiscal year beginning on April 1, 2021.
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