THE UNINSURED: Proposals Floated in New York, Michigan
New York Gov. George Pataki (R) and state legislative leaders have reached consensus on devoting a portion of the state's tobacco settlement revenue toward providing health care to the uninsured. "We will announce an initiative in the near future that will use some portion of the tobacco settlement to provide insurance for low-income New Yorkers who are currently uninsured," said John Signor of the State Health Department. Patricia Lynch, spokesperson for state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D), said he is also interested in such a proposal. And state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R) "said he thought 25 to 35% of the settlement money should go toward health care initiatives with a large chunk reserved for dealing with the uninsured, many of whom suffer from cancer and other smoking-related illnesses that have drained Medicaid pools in recent years." In the meantime, the New York Times reports, lobbying organizations and health care advocates "have started to descend" on Albany with their own proposals. The most ambitious, offered by the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation and Local 1199, called Family Health Plus, would allow low-income New Yorkers to buy coverage on a sliding-scale basis (Steinhauer, 1/25).
The University of Michigan and Washtenaw County, MI, are combining their uninsured and indigent care programs into a single agency, the Community Health Board. The new agency will create "one-stop, seamless service," said Community Mental Health Director Kathleen Reynolds. "It's a pilot project from the state of Michigan to demonstrate primary care and mental health in an integrated fashion. It's not being done anywhere," she said. The program will be funded though $44.5 million from Community Mental Health and $8 million from M-Care Medicaid. It will serve about 7,000 Medicaid recipients currently covered under M-Care and another 600 indigent residents now covered by Community Mental Health. The Ann Arbor News reports that the program will go into effect Jan. 1, 2000 (Pyen, 1/22).