Local health care workers rally in Albany to demand increase in Medicaid funding

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ALBANY, N.Y. – With the state budget deadline looming, health care workers from Rochester joined thousands of other health care workers across the state to rally in Albany Tuesday.

They want law makers and Governor Kathy Hochul to close the Medicaid coverage gap and increase Medicaid funding ahead of the budget deadline.

“Today is a good day and we just want to be heard and we want to know that we’re working for the better thing; it’s teamwork for everybody,” said Wesley Gardens CNA Tashyon Armstrong.

United Health Care Workers East Union is calling on New York’s elected leaders, as well as the governor to invest $2.5 billion dollars in health care in the 2024 budget.

Those dollars would include:

-An increase in Medicaid reimbursement rates by 10 percent for hospitals and 20 percent for nursing homes with no offset.

-Restore the $700 million dollars in safety net funding and increase it by an additional $600 million.

-Raise the minimum wage to $21.25 by 2027.

“It will give the workers more support. It would also give the facilities and the hospitals more support to support us,” Armstrong said.

They said right now reimbursement rates in Upstate New York are about 20 percent lower than downstate.

Not only that, but 90 percent of nursing homes in upstate are below the state’s median reimbursement of $248 per day, per resident.

“The last increase in funding, it’s been over 20 years. The time is now, so we’re calling on Albany to make sure that happens,” said union member Tiara Tazell.

She said hospitals are on the brink of closing, emergency rooms are overflowing, homecare services are becoming harder to come by and nursing home residents are facing life threatening long wait times for beside care.

“It would provide sustainability in this industry at this point. Folks are leaving the industry because they can’t afford to live off the wages that they’re making, and those wages come from the reimbursement rates with Medicaid,” Tazell said.

United Health Care Workers East Union organizers said this will be one of the biggest turnouts they have had in the last five years.

A new budget is due April 1st.