Injecting New York City into the national debate over health care, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday that all New Yorkers — including the hundreds of thousands of uninsured and undocumented immigrants — will be guaranteed access to health care and primary care doctors. It's an effort to expand and rebrand the public health care services that the city already provides.

He first made the announcement during an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Tuesday morning.



Anyone can walk into a New York City hospital emergency room and get help, regardless of his or her ability to pay. But it's a costly way to provide a health care safety net.

But de Blasio says the city is prepared to do much more to help the 600,000 New Yorkers who do not have health insurance.

The plan, called NYC Care, is set to grant comprehensive and affordable health care to all New Yorkers who have, to date, been unable to get health insurance because of their immigration status or because of an inability to afford insurance.

It is an expansion of NYC Health + Hospitals' health insurance option called MetroPlus, insurance coverage that can only be used at city-run hospitals.

"You get signed up, you know you have coverage for a whole range of things. You get a primary care doctor — a real person with a real name, a real address," the mayor said at a news conference about the plan. "You get care on a regular basis. The emergency room becomes the last resort."

The plan is expected to cost the city $100 million a year. The city says NYC Care will be priced on a sliding scale, although it has not yet specified details on the scale. The city will also begin an outreach effort for uninsured New Yorkers to try and sign them up for MetroPlus.

"When you know something is guaranteed, you act differently, you behave differently, you now know it is there for you, it is meant to be there for you. It's not something you have to fight for or struggle for. It's not some maze you have to complete," de Blasio aid. "It's guaranteed, it will be accessible, it will be available."

The city says anyone will be able to access health care through the plan at one of NYC Health + Hospitals' locations "once the program is fully ramped up."

The city says NYC Care will give uninsured New Yorkers access to services such as specialty care, prescription drugs, mental health services, and hospitalization.

New Yorkers are encouraged to call 311 to receive for more information.


In some respects, the new NYC Care program is an attempt by the city to do a better job of connecting New Yorkers with public health services that already exist.

"What is missing is the good customer service to make sure you get an available appointment," Dr. Mitchell Katz, the president and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals, said at the news conference.

Expanded public health care services could be a boon for undocumented immigrants, who at times do not go to the hospital unless they have a health emergency — a decision that can prove expensive to them. Instead, the plan would, in theory, provide more undocumented immigrants preventive care to catch health problems earlier.

The city says recent changes to NYC Health + Hospitals should allow their locations to handle an influx of patients.


The mayor says he supports a single-payer health care system at the national level, and he backs the Albany proposal to enact something similar across the state. But he says he did not want to wait.

Health care for all, while a major peg of progressive platforms, was not a promise de Blasio made during either of his mayoral campaigns, but it was unveiled on the same day Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a likely presidential candidate, proposed a publicly run health insurance option for residents in his state who are not covered by private employers and buying insurance off the marketplace created under former President Barack Obama's health care law.

A day earlier, California Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed state-funded health care coverage for 138,000 young people living in the country illegally and reinstating a mandate for everyone to buy insurance or pay a fine — part of "Obamacare" that congressional Republicans eliminated last year.

The Trump administration said in July that it would freeze payments under an "Obamacare" program that protects insurers with sicker patients from financial losses, which is expected to add to premium increases.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.


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