New York City will begin guaranteeing comprehensive health care to every single resident regardless of someone's ability to pay or immigration status, an unprecedented plan that will protect the more than half-a-million New Yorkers currently using the ER as a primary provider, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
It's not health insurance, his spokesman clarified after the surprise announcement on MSNBC Tuesday morning.
"This is the city paying for direct comprehensive care (not just ERs) for people who can't afford it, or can't get comprehensive Medicaid — including 300,000 undocumented New Yorkers," spokesman Eric Phillips tweeted.
At a press conference Tuesday, de Blasio said the plan will provide primary and specialty care, from pediatrics to OBGYN, geriatric, mental health and other services, to the city's roughly 600,000 uninsured.
The city already has the foundation for such a plan — a public health insurance option that helps get direct care to undocumented residents.
That option will be expanded, the mayor said, and supported with the addition of a new program called NYC Care. Patients who seek health coverage through NYC Care will receive a card that allows them to see a primary care doctor and seek specialty care services, de Blasio said.
Those who can afford to pay will pay for services on a sliding scale, while those who can't will receive free coverage, he noted.
New Yorkers will be able to access the program through the city's website or simply by calling 311. There will be no tax hikes to fund it, the mayor said.
"The programs 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 health care services," his office said in a release.
NYC Care is expected to launch in the Bronx this summer and be available in the other four boroughs in 2021, the release said.
It'll cost at least $100 million, accordinng to the release.
"We'll put the money in to make it work; it's going to save us money down the line," de Blasio said on MSNBC. "We're already paying an exorbitant amount to pay for health care the wrong way when what we should be doing is helping them get the primary care."
"This has never been done in the country in a comprehensive way," de Blasio said on MSNBC. "Health care isn't just a right in theory, it must be a right in practice. And we're doing that here in this city."
Primary care doctors are already scarce in many areas, according to Dr. Tamara Moise, who runs an urgent care center in East Flatbush.
"For the primary care doctors, we will have a large influx of people who did not have insurance who now will," she told News 4. "Will we have a large enough pool of primary care doctors to support that?"