More than 5.5 million New Yorkers rely on Medicaid managed care health plans for their care. Many of these members are among the state’s most at-risk residents, with multiple health conditions that require coordination of numerous services. This includes both physical health and mental health care, long-term services and supports, as well as help coordinating social services, such as housing, employment, education and food access.  

As we rapidly approach the April 1 start of a new fiscal year, I am concerned about a provision in the governor’s proposed state budget that could reduce the number of health plans in the Medicaid program – allowing no fewer than two, but no more than five in each region of the state. In the Bronx, there are more than 709,000 residents enrolled in seven Medicaid managed care plans, and thousands more senior citizens who are enrolled in managed long-term care plans. Reducing these plans to “no more than five” in all of New York City, will take away choices from citizens in the Bronx. It would also mean the loss of thousands of jobs at the health plans that would be eliminated, and with it, the loss of longstanding, community partners. 

Founded to support the Bronx business community, the Bronx Chamber of Commerce is deeply committed to improving the quality of life for all Bronxites. If enacted, the procurement proposal will make it harder for the people in our community covered by Medicaid to get the services they need. And it will also impact our local economy, where many businesses are still trying to recover from the havoc caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Small businesses throughout the Bronx are the backbone of our communities. Eliminating this many jobs from the Bronx economy would cause ripple effects in many neighborhoods, and deal a harsh blow to businesses eager for recovery. 

Minority and underserved populations were the most disproportionately affected by the pandemic. After two years of constant change, people are tired. We should take care to avoid any further disruption to these communities. Our residents want normalcy, and to be able to take care of their families. And as a chamber and representative of the Bronx business community, we are all eager for economic recovery – not more hardship. 

I thank our legislative leaders in the Senate and Assembly for removing this worrisome provision from their one-house budget plans. Gov. Hochul has proven herself to be a leader who is willing to listen to concerns. I hope this is the case on this issue, and she will join the Legislature in removing this proposal from the final state budget. 

Lisa Sorin is president of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce.

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Op-Ed | Protecting New York’s Medicaid members, preserving our community – Bronx Times – Bronx Times