Paula Mitchell

Paula Mitchell

KINGSTON–Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said she came to Kingston on a mission: To sound the alarm that New York is “under siege” from Washington, particularly as it relates to the expiration of a program that provides low-cost health insurance to 9 million children nationwide and 350,000 in New York.

David Scarpino, president and CEO of HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley, addresses a gathering on Thursday that featured Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, seated second from right. Photo by Paula Mitchell.

Hochul stopped by the Mary’s Avenue campus of HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley Thursday afternoon, urging people to press members of Congress to act quickly.

“It has to happen now because families all over this area, 50,000 in the Hudson Valley alone, are under stress,” she said following her brief address.

“Families have enough to worry about. They should not have to worry about whether or not they’ll be able to get their children essential health care. This has to stop.”

Congress failed to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program, begun during the Clinton administration in 1997, by the Sept. 30 deadline.
The program provides health coverage to children up to the age of 19 whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid coverage. It also covers close to 400,000 pregnant women annually.
Although a bipartisan plan to restore the $14 billion program is in the works in both the Senate and House of Representatives, not acting fast enough could mean at least 10 states would run out of federal CHIP funds by Dec. 31.
New York is not among them. However, continuing the state program (known as Child Health Plus) without federal funding would cost taxpayers more than $1 billion, she said.
“How heartless can you be to say that we don’t care about the 350,000 children living among us who use this plan to make sure they get their immunizations and checkups and dental visits or vision care?” Hochul said.

“Every member of Congress who represents the people in the state of New York… needs to be held accountable and asked the question, ‘Are you with our children, or are you against our children?’ Because this is the test–whether or not you support the reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Congress needs to stop playing politics with people’s lives.”

David Scarpino, the president and chief executive officer at HealthAlliance, called Hochul’s message “sobering.”

“When you start to cut the benefits of the most vulnerable in our community, it impacts all of us, especially at the hospital because our mission is to take care of everyone who walks through our doors, whether they have insurance or not,” he said.

“That puts a strain on us and the public because they may not come to get services if they feel they’re uninsured, and if they do come to get services, which we will provide, then we’re uncompensated for that, so that stresses everyone.”

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