COREY JOHNSON: Issue hits close to home.

Service Employees International Union Local 1199 was among the advocates at a hearing on proposed legislation within the City Council that would allow nonprofit health centers to participate in the city program aimed at providing access to health services to uninsured residents.

Earlier this year, the de Blasio administration rolled out NYC Care, a program aimed at connecting the city’s 600,000 uninsured residents with its public health-insurance plan and access to NYC Health + Hospital services. The bills would allow about 500 federally qualified health centers across the city to also participate.

Too Many Left Out

During the Oct. 30 hearing, Council Speaker Corey Johnson said that too many people had been left behind without access to coverage in their neighborhoods.

“NYC Care relies just on H+H facilities, so it can’t reach all of New York City’s vulnerable districts,” he said.

Queens Community District 7, which spanned Flushing, Murray Hill and Whitestone, had the highest rate of uninsured residents at 15.5 percent yet lacked a single public hospital, according to the city’s Independent Budget Office.

SEIU Local 1199, which represents employees in both H+H clinics and federally qualified health centers, rallied at City Hall ahead of the hearing in support of the measure.

“Increasing access to primary care will not only help New Yorkers stay healthier and benefit from early detection and treatment, it will help H+H conserve precious resources by avoiding unnecessary hospitalizations and admissions,” said Helen Schaub, the union’s director of policy and legislation.

‘Should Be Accessible’

“If affordable health-care is going to be available to more people, it should also be accessible,” said 1199 member Jennifer Allen, who works as a medical assistant at an Institute for Family Health clinic. “Here in East Harlem we have already taken in a lot of patients who used to go to North General Hospital, since it closed.”

The program, which was first implemented in The Bronx, has helped 10,000 patients in its first six months, according to city officials. Mr. Johnson noted that it would not only help uninsured residents obtain critical health-care services but also aid those who were insured navigate the health care system.

“This takes the questions and confusion out of that process,” he said.

He added that the topic was a “deeply personal” one for him because he lost his health insurance shortly after being diagnosed with HIV when he was 22. “It is one of the toughest things I’ve ever gone through,” Mr. Johnson said. “I know the difference great health care can make.”

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