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(CMC) – Caribbean-American legislators in New York City, Councilman Jumaane Williams and Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte, have welcomed Mayor Bill de Blasio’s unveiling of “the largest, most comprehensive plan” in the United States to guarantee healthcare for every New Yorker, including undocumented Caribbean and other immigrants.
“I was glad to see the announcement that the city will be moving to expand healthcare access to uninsured New Yorkers through the expansion of our public option and through the ‘NYC Care’ program,” Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants, who represents the primarily Caribbean 45th Council District in Brooklyn, told the Caribbean Media Corporation.
“I thank Mayor de Blasio for taking a leadership role on this all-important issue,” added the candidate for public advocacy in the city. “I have been a longtime advocate for single-payer healthcare, and as we move toward the implementation of that policy for New York State, we should do all we can to provide universal coverage in our city.”
While stating that many of the details of the plan still need to be expanded on, Williams said he was “excited by the concept of using the tools we have to expand healthcare to the 600,000 New Yorkers currently left behind”.
“I am also excited that both physical and mental health are taken into consideration,” he said, disclosing that his family has “worked across many areas of the healthcare industry”.
He noted that “just a few years ago, when I faced a life-threatening health emergency, the work of dedicated doctors and nurses saved my life”.
“All New Yorkers should have access to this kind of high-quality care,” Williams said. “While the federal government is more concerned with an asinine wall than people dying because of a lack of healthcare, the city should lead the way in fulfilling the core principle that healthcare is a human right.”
Bichotte, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, who represents the 42nd Assembly District in Brooklyn, said she has “seen first-hand some of the disadvantages that our healthcare system deals to people who are of a different background than their provider, be it racially, culturally, or economically”.
“Everyone should have a right to affordable, safe, culturally sensitive, high quality healthcare regardless of their economic situations,” said Bichotte, the first Haitian-American from New York City to be elected to the New York State Assembly. “With NYC Care, the citizens of this great city can finally exercise that right.”
“The announcement of this programme could not come at a better time,” she added. “Even as the country at large grapples with the Trump administration’s fearsome immigration policies and tactics, New York City stands as an example and guarantees healthcare to all, including targeted immigrants. “Culturally sensitive and high-quality healthcare should be a basic human right.”
The mayor said the plan will serve the 600,000 New Yorkers without insurance by strengthening New York City’s public health insurance option, MetroPlus, and guaranteeing anyone ineligible for insurance, including undocumented New Yorkers.
The programmes will include customer-friendly call lines to help New Yorkers – regardless of their insurance – make appointments with general practitioners, cardiologists, pediatricians, gynecologists and a full spectrum of healthcare services, de Blasio said.
“Healthcare is a right, not a privilege reserved for those who can afford it,” he said. “While the federal government works to gut healthcare for millions of Americans, New York City is leading the way by guaranteeing that every New Yorker has access to quality, comprehensive access to care, regardless of immigration status or their ability to pay.”
“With today’s announcement of NYC Care, New York City takes another leap ahead of the rest of the nation in providing mental health services,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray, who traces her roots to Barbados and St. Lucia. “Guaranteed healthcare means guaranteed mental healthcare and alcohol/drug addiction treatment.
“No other city or state provides these comprehensive services to all residents,” she added.
The mayor said, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, 8 million New Yorkers now have health insurance, adding that the uninsured rate is about nearly half of what it was in 2013.
In the last two years, he said New York City’s Public Engagement Unit coordinated signing up more than 130,000 New Yorkers for plans through the exchanges created by the law.
But de Blasio said about 600,000 New Yorkers, including many Caribbean immigrants, remain without insurance, “because they do not or cannot enroll”.
Through this new initiative, the mayor said New York City will create a “bigger, better, more comprehensive program for guaranteed health care”.
He said the city aims to better connect people to more effective and affordable health care in one of two ways.
Through NYC Care, the mayor said anyone will be able to access comprehensive care across NYC Health + Hospitals’ more than 70-plus locations, “once the program is fully ramped up”.
Through NYC’s Public Option, de Blasio said the city will “double down on efforts to boost enrollment in MetroPlus”.
He said MetroPlus provides free or affordable health insurance that connects insurance-eligible New Yorkers to a network of providers that includes NYC Health + Hospitals’ 11 hospitals and 70 clinics.
De Blasio said the city will also improve the quality of the MetroPlus customer experience through improved access to clinical care, mental health services, and wellness rewards for healthy behavior.
The mayor said the city is taking an “unprecedented approach” to healthcare services by “tackling mental and physical issues holistically”.
Through both programmess, he said New Yorkers will be able to access addiction services and opioid treatment, mental health counseling, and counseling services for trauma victims.
De Blasio said New Yorkers will be able to call MetroPlus or 311 to be screened for health insurance eligibility and get connected to their best coverage option.
He said NYC Care will launch in summer 2019 and will roll out geographically, starting in the Bronx. It will be fully available to all New Yorkers across the five boroughs in 2021, the mayor said.
He said the programme will cost at least US$100 million annually at full scale.