Andrew Cuomo (51864)
Credit: Pat Arnow

Gearing up for a possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act, New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo is looking to shore up health care for his constituents.

The governor has directed the New York State Department of Health to ban all insurance companies who withdraw from the state’s health insurance exchange if they don’t participate in the Medicaid program or contract with state agencies under regulations announced this week.

Cuomo also finalized regulations guaranteeing that contraceptive drugs and devices are covered by commercial health insurance policies without coinsurance, co-pays or deductibles. The regulations also help New York State keep a chunk of what’s known as Obamacare, including rules involving prescription drug coverage, preventative care and pre-existing conditions.

A bill recently passed in the Republican-dominated House of Representatives would let states opt out of the 10 essential benefits of the ACA that include maternity and pediatric care, mental health services, hospitalization, laboratory services and preventive care. While it’s not etched in the proverbial stone that the Republican-led Senate will follow suit, if they pass the repeal of the ACA unchanged it could leave the more than 1 million New York residents who obtained insurance through Obamacare without health insurance.

“As long as I am governor, New Yorkers will not be subject to price discrimination based on age, gender or pre-existing conditions, and essential health benefits will continue to be the rule, not the exception,” said Cuomo in a statement announcing his administration’s actions. “These aggressive actions will make certain that no matter what happens in Congress, the people of New York will not have to worry about losing access to the quality medical care they need and deserve.” The governor also said that he wouldn’t stand by while “ultra-conservatives” in the nation’s capital try to “roll back” progress.

Cuomo’s announcement was met with praise from George Gresham, president of the health care worker’s union 1199SEIU. In a statement, he thanked the governor for acting quickly before the U.S. Senate got ahold of the ACA.

“The health care plan proposed by the extreme right-wing will wreak havoc on our health care system by cutting hundreds of billions of dollars in Medicaid funding and weakening insurance protections, putting millions of vulnerable Americans at risk of losing coverage,” stated Gresham. “As New Yorkers face this terrifying prospect, Governor Cuomo is taking immediate action to protect access to health insurance for all New Yorkers.”

Gresham’s union has been a part of a couple of significant measures involving their constituents and Cuomo. When the governor wanted to reform New York State’s Medicaid system, Gresham and 1199 had a seat at the table. The union has also been in Cuomo’s corner during the push for a $15 state minimum wage.

“These measures, the first of their kind in the nation, will ensure that insurance providers in New York don’t discriminate against anyone because of age, gender or pre-existing condition,” Gresham’s statement continued. “The health care workers of 1199SEIU commend Governor Cuomo for taking bold, progressive action in protecting our residents, and we will continue to fight with him against the devastating health care cuts in Washington.”