More than 10,000 Bronx residents have now enrolled in a program meant to steer uninsured New Yorkers to preexisting but underused medical care subsidized by the city, officials said.
The $100 million NYC Care program doesn’t provide health insurance, but offers cards to roughly 600,000 uninsured New Yorkers so they can more easily access services already offered by the city’s public hospital system and clinics.
“In the world’s wealthiest nation, no person should ever have to choose between taking their child to the doctor and putting food on the table,” Mayor de Blasio said in a statement. “In New York City, we are making this right a reality, and providing low-cost, affordable healthcare to all those who need it.”
De Blasio has frequently touted the card as “universal health care.” His failed 2020 campaign for president even bragged that he was providing “universal quality health care for all New Yorkers.”
But uninsured New Yorkers — including undocumented immigrants — already have access to the public hospital system. Instead, the program is intended to help them better manage their health and avoid costly emergency room visits.
The program launched in the Bronx in August and reached the 10,000 enrollment goal two months ahead of schedule. All of the Bronx members got primary care appointments within the first two weeks of enrolling, according to the mayor’s office.
The city is on track to expand the program into Brooklyn and Staten island in January, covering all five boroughs by the end of next year. About $25 million in city funding will go toward the program through the end of June 2020.
The program is expected to save the city money from a reduction in ER visits and hospital stays, which are more expensive than preventative doctors’ visits for patients and the hospitals themselves.
About 300,000 of those who can benefit from the card are undocumented immigrants who can’t be insured, and the rest either can’t afford health coverage through Affordable Care Act exchanges or have opted out of purchasing it. Those who can’t be insured can get the NYC Care card and membership for access to a primary care doctor in the city’s Health + Hospitals network.
The card provides members with their own doctor, pharmacy services day and night, a 24/7 hotline to make appointments and “clear” affordable co-pays, according to the mayor’s office.
As part of the program, the city hired more doctors in the Bronx and expanded pharmacy hours at all five public hospital locations in the borough. Since August, card members have filled more than 14,000 prescriptions during those extended hours, with most drugs treating diabetes and hypertension.
Anyone uninsured who’s lived in the city for at least six months can get the card.