Mar 2, 2021
TRILLIUM HEALTH FACES CATASTROPHIC LOSS OF $5 MILLION IN ANNUAL FUNDING
Demands Cuomo postpone state budget item that would have devastating effects on health care for communities of color – the same populations hit disproportionately hard by COVID-19
ROCHESTER, NY (March 2, 2021) – As Governor Cuomo publicly proclaims the need to vaccinate the most vulnerable New Yorkers against COVID-19, behind the scenes he is pushing major cuts in resources to the very community health centers across NY that ensure access to care for the underserved. In the past few weeks, Trillium Health has vaccinated thousands of community members – many of whom are older, on a limited income, and are persons of color. These efforts, in addition to many vital community health programs offered by Trillium Health and other health centers across the state, will not be able to continue if these funding cuts go through as planned on April 1, 2021.
What is being cut?
The resources in jeopardy are related to the 340B prescription drug discount program. The program basically works like this: pharmaceutical companies that participate in Medicaid are required by the federal government to provide discounts to some types of community health centers, like Trillium Health, and their pharmacies. Trillium Health and other safety net providers like Ryan White HIV clinics are required to use the savings to fund critical programs and services that address needs such as food insecurity, housing stability, and transportation for underserved communities, in addition to providing low-cost prescription drugs to clients. But instead, Governor Cuomo wants to usurp that money and use it to help close the state’s budget deficit.
What is at stake?
Trillium Health stands to lose more than $5 million annually if the state proceeds with its carve-out of the 340B program on April 1. It would cause an immediate disruption in services to hundreds of thousands of the most vulnerable New Yorkers and a loss of jobs. The Governor himself indicated that more than 1.6 million New Yorkers are currently insured under Medicaid. It would impact everything from reaching into our communities to provide COVID-19 testing and vaccinations; to HIV treatment and prevention; and harm reduction programs aimed at addressing the ongoing opioid epidemic. Community health centers including Trillium Health would be forced to eliminate or dramatically reduce life-saving services to our community like food and housing.
Andrea DeMeo, President and CEO of Trillium Health, said:
“People will suffer. And make no mistake— these are the very same people that have been disproportionately affected by COVID. And all the progress to address the opioid and HIV epidemics – which are now further exacerbated by the pandemic—will be undone. The Governor needs to understand that this will be Armageddon.”
Mark Malahosky, Vice President of Pharmacy Services at Trillium Health, and Dr. Patrick Hildenbrandt, Chief Pharmacy Officer at Evergreen Health, said in an Op-Ed:
“Community health centers reeling from the pandemic have already had to deal with the state withholding funds. Now, on top of that, the state is removing what for many is our largest resource – the savings from the federal 340B drug pricing program. Undermining this resource will make it impossible for health centers to reach the communities that Albany and Washington so desperately want and need us to reach.”
Andre Dixon, Director of Multicultural Workforce and Student Initiatives at Trillium Health, said:
“Shifting cost from the 340B program onto the backs of the most vulnerable New Yorkers is unconscionable – but that’s exactly what Governor Cuomo is doing. It defies logic that state leaders would be so tone-deaf on such a clear case of inequity in our health care system.”
Rudy Rivera, Executive Director of the Father Laurence Tracy Advocacy Center, said:
“It is critical that people get the health care and support services that they need in their neighborhood, where they are comfortable. We need to maintain the funding necessary to keep these programs going.”
Dr. Seanelle Hawkins, President and CEO of the Urban League of Rochester, said:
“Black and brown people are at highest risk for severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. Likewise, these same communities are most at risk for contracting HIV and not receiving adequate treatment to sidestep its life threatening symptoms. Quietly eliminating 340B funding in service to ‘recovery’ from COVID-19 is merely trading one epidemic’s negative impacts for another’s, with black and brown communities drawing the shortest straw. We must seek alternative approaches to COVID-19 economic stopgap measures, if we are to interrupt racism’s deadly health impacts in New York State.”
What is next?
With just a little over one month to go before the state 340B carve-out takes effect on April 1, Trillium Health and other Ryan White and community health centers across the state are redoubling efforts to block the measure in Albany. The coalition is urging Governor Cuomo and other state lawmakers to postpone the cuts for three years, allowing time for all parties to create a meaningful solution that is not at the expense of safety net providers and on the backs of those already experiencing significant health disparities and limited access to healthcare. The coalition is also asking community members to reach out to their state lawmakers and urge them to save 340B.
About Trillium Health
As a Federally Qualified Health Center, Trillium Health's mission is to promote health equity by providing affordable and extraordinary primary and specialty health care to all, including LGBTQ+ communities, in Rochester, New York. Its comprehensive model of care ensures care for people from all backgrounds, regardless of income, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, or ethnicity. For more information, please visit www.trilliumhealth.org.