Updated: Oct 12
The following reflection was written by LRC's Graduate Intern, Deb Schwartz.
On September 21 the weather in the Bronx was gorgeous—blue sky, bright sun, a nice breeze—and outside Lincoln Hospital Center, the mood was equal parts defiant and upbeat. As part of a coordinated national response, the Labor-Religion Coalition joined the Nonviolent Medicaid Army, the NYS Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, Make the Road New York, and the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) under a bright red banner reading “Medicaid Cuts=Death” to protest recent Medicaid cut-offs and call for Medicaid for all.
Flanked by a squad of Lincoln nurses clad in white coats, Sonia Lawrence, a Lincoln nurse, and a NYSNA board member, took the megaphone to deliver the headline message: “Every person deserves healthcare.” And right now, that healthcare is at risk.
In 2020, a COVID-related policy was enacted to keep states from removing anyone enrolled in Medicaid from the program. Typically, if you’re enrolled in Medicaid, you must go through a recertification process each year to determine if you’re still eligible. But from 2020 to April 2023, the process was suspended. And largely because of this, a record number of people—over 23 million—enrolled in Medicaid/CHIP.
But as of April of this year, the recertification process resumed, leaving millions of people at risk of losing their healthcare. Some people might lose coverage because they no longer qualify (their incomes might be considered too high), or for procedural reasons: maybe because the process of renewing is too difficult, or maybe because they’ve moved or changed their phone number and therefore haven’t received notice of the policy change.
Kelly Smith, tri-chair of the NYS Poor People’s Campaign, is worried both about people not being properly informed about the cutoffs and that the government is downplaying the potential ramifications. “There are a lot of false narratives in New York State that the governor delayed these cutoffs or gave a longer grace period and that you can go on the state marketplace and buy insurance so ‘it’s OK, it’s not that big of a deal’ but what we know is that it’s a very big deal.”
As of October, the latest data from The Kaiser Family Foundation shows that nationwide, over seven million people previously enrolled in Medicaid have been disenrolled, and 73% of those disenrolled were terminated for procedural reasons. In New York, 177,978 of the 338,007—or 52%—of those disenrolled were disenrolled for procedural reasons.
When people have access to Medicaid, their health outcomes improve. One of the NVMA’s goals is to push to expand the program. As Luisa Cuautle, a health campaigns associate at Make The Road New York said during her turn at the mic, “We’re fighting for Medicaid for all because a lot of our members are immigrants who don’t have access to health insurance.”
NYS PPC tri-chair Arelis Figueroa closed out the protest by leading the crowd in a strong chant, reminding us all that “we have nothing to lose but our chains.”