New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and the State Legislature passed a budget that has been met with mixed reaction from the disability community.

The New York fiscal year 2022-2023 budget expands eligibility for Medicaid and the Medicare Savings Program (MSP) reforms that will help hundreds of thousands of people better access and afford services.

Medicaid expansion increases the income limit for seniors and people with disabilities from 87 percent to 138 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) the same limit used for individuals eligible for Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) Medicaid through the Marketplace.

This income increase ensures that fewer people face a “Medicaid cliff” when they reach Medicare eligibility, which according to the Medicare Rights Center helps to eliminate racial disparities in health care access and remedy a Medicaid eligibility disparity which penalized older adults and individuals with disabilities. 

The budget also expands eligibility for the Medicare Savings Program, a long-overdue reform that the Medicare Rights Center (MRC) championed alongside partner organizations. The MSP helps older adults and people with disabilities living on low incomes, by paying their Medicare Part B premiums and enrolling them in “Extra Help,” the federal prescription drug subsidy program. This financial assistance allows enrollees to maintain their Medicare coverage, access needed care and afford other necessities.

According to MRC raising the MSP eligibility limits from at or below 135 percent to 186 percent of the federal poverty level will make tens of thousands of low-income New Yorkers eligible for the benefit and will save them $170.10 each month in Part B premiums. Additionally, the Social Security Administration (SSA) estimates that Extra Help is worth about $5,100 per year.

“The Medicare Rights Center commends New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, Assembly Speaker Carl Heasti and Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, for passing a budget that will improve health coverage and care for older New Yorkers and people with disabilities,” said MRC Pres. Fred Riccardi in a statement.

In contrast the budget denied direct support professionals (DSP), who support people with disabilities in their homes and in group homes, a cost of living (COLA) raise of 11 percent that the workforce had demonstrated and lobbied for. In the end the budget provides a 5.4 percent COLA increase and one-time bonuses.

DSPs, work extra hours tomake enough to cover their expenses.

The reported crisis for homecare providers has seen many leave the profession to find better paid employment, leaving people with disabilities without care and many programs closed because of lack of staff.

“I am so disappointed that we weren’t able to provide more pay for home care workers, but we have made important first steps into a more equitable future,” said Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon (Dist. 52) on her website. … This work is vastly underpaid, leading to NY’s worst in the nation shortage of workers. We had advocated for an increase to 150 percent of the minimum wage, but only achieved a $3/hour increase over two years, so we live to fight another day.”

To read more about the COLA issue read the YAI column on page 12 and the CDPPANY column on page 6.