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Know Your Rights
Source: WABC-TV
Subject: Health Justice & Access
Type: Media Coverage

A New Law New Yorkers Need to Know About

(New York – WABC, January 11, 2007) – There is a push tonight (by Make the Road by Walking and other organizations) to make sure New Yorkers know they’re entitled to affordable hospital care.

Eyewitness News reporter Kemberly Richardson has the story.

Five years ago, doctors treated Afrah Yusr in the emergency room. She didn’t have insurance but did walk away with a bill for several thousand dollars — one she couldn’t pay. Within weeks, she started getting notices.

“Receiving information from a collecting agency is really scary a scary thing,” she said.

Roughly 1 in 5 New York City residents are in the same boat — uninsured. But a new state law aims to make sure those who need medical care get it.

All private and public hospitals must now provide financial help to uninsured or underinsured patients, including immigrants. Whether it’s the ER or walk-in clinics, advocates say this legislation is an important step in fixing the broke healthcare system.

Adam Gurvitch, New York Immigration Coalition: “It doesn’t create free health care what the law does it require hospitals to provide discounts, steep discounts to people who earn below the poverty level, $10,000 a year for a single person and about $50,000 in earnings for a family of 3.”

Critics point out hospitals receive nearly $1 billion dollars annually from the state to help cover the costs but up until now have not been held accountable for the funds. Under the new law, patients will be able to better navigate through the system.

Nisha Agarwal, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest: “Hospitals must provide you with a free interpreter that is skilled in your language.”

And in terms of aggressive debt collectors, hospitals must now first help patients apply for financial assistance or medicaid before sending their bill to an agency.