FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 6, 2009
MAYOR BLOOMBERG URGES WASHINGTON TO FIX DISPARITIES IN FEDERAL HEALTHCARE REIMBURSEMENT RATES THAT HURT PUERTO RICO
Discusses letter to President Obama in address to New York State Federation of Hispanic Chambers of Commerce Annual Convention
The following is the text of Mayor Bloomberg's remarks as prepared.
"Gracias, Alfred. Buenos tardes, mis amigos y amigas. Es un placer estar aqui con todos ustedes. Just as it will be un placer tambien watching los Yankees beat Boston en el Bronx this weekend - while beating the heat with one of Alfredo Thiebaud's delicioso coco helados. Now also: For anyone here who doesn't speak Spanish, my accent is perfect. And for those who do: no digan nada, por favor.
"Two years ago, you honored me with an award for 'public health advocacy.' Helping people live longer, healthier lives is one of government's most important duties - and it's one our Administration takes very seriously. I'm very proud of the health policies we've instituted. Because today, for the first time in many decades, New Yorkers are living, on average, longer than our fellow Americans. Now, improving the health of all Americans has to be the primary goal of the national health care reforms that are being so hotly debated.
"That's why today, as the mayor of a city with strong ties to Puerto Rico - and a city where many Puerto Ricans come to seek the quality health care they often can't receive on their home island. I've sent President Obama a letter urging him to reform the current Federal health policies that create this problem. And the problem, in a nutshell, is this: the government of Puerto Rico has long participated in Federal-state health programs. But there remain significant and disturbing differences in how Puerto Rico is treated in these programs.
"For example, Puerto Rico has to bear more than 80 percent of the costs of Medicaid, while states with similar demographics pay only 20 percent. There are similar disparities in Medicare and 'CHIP,' the Children's Health Insurance Program. And the result is that too many doctors, hospitals, and other providers in Puerto Rico aren't adequately paid for their services and too many patients receive insufficient care - which leads them to seek care here in New York City.
"That's not fair to anyone involved. Not the people of Puerto Rico, who've been citizens of the United States for nearly 100 years. And not New Yorkers, who find ourselves bearing additional costs because of this inequitable policy. It's time that, Puerto Ricans, along with all other Americans, have fair access to quality health care where they live. And I've urged the President to make sure that happens now.
"You know, as I've tried to improve my Spanish, I've come to learn some Spanish proverbs, including: 'El que la sigue, la consigue' - You get what you work for. That's true in health care - which is why I'm working for fairness for all. It's true in our economy, too. The national recession is far from over and many New Yorkers are suffering as a result. But it's also clear that businesses in areas ranging from tourism to bioscience are starting to bounce back. That shows that the seven years hard work we've put into diversifying our city's economy is paying off now.
"Our city's vibrant Hispanic business community is also a crucial part of our economy. Today New York City has more than 130,000 Hispanic-owned businesses with combined annual payrolls of more than one and a quarter billion dollars. In construction, entertainment, media, and other industries, your impact is huge, and growing. And that's why strengthening Hispanic-owned businesses is key to our five-borough economic opportunity plan to bring New York out of the national recession as quickly as we can.
"That plan has these three elements. First, our most immediate task is to help businesses hit hard by the recession meet their payrolls and keep their doors open. During this recession, there's been a lot of talk about saving businesses 'too big to fail.' But as someone who founded and grew a small firm in this city, I think our small businesses are too important to fail. And that's why, for example, we're underwriting emergency 'NYC Capital Access' loans of between $1,500 and a quarter-million dollars for small business owners facing a credit crunch.
"Commissioner Rob Walsh and his great team at our Department of Small Business Services are also getting credit flowing to Hispanic-owned firms. And they're also supplying expert information and advice - in English and Spanish - on the issues most important to our emerging Hispanic entrepreneurs.
"But we not only want Hispanic-owned businesses to survive the hard times. We also want you to thrive, and help drive our recovery and prosperity. And that's our second priority. To make it a reality we are, for example, continuing to level the playing field when it comes to doing business with City agencies. Y el que la sigue, la consigue; our hard work is paying off.
"In the past fiscal year alone, City agency contracts and sub-contracts going to Hispanic-owned firms increased from $40 million to more than $68 million - a nearly 70 percent increase. But we know that we can do even more.
"That's why two weeks ago, we took steps to encourage agencies to not just rely on the 'usual suspects' when they put together bidders' lists for their contracts. That's going to give a wider range of vendors - including Hispanic-owned firms - a fairer shot at doing even more business with the City. And that's a win for all New Yorkers. Because the fact is that your firms hire locally and spend locally, so that when you succeed, that success is shared by the entire community.
"Third and finally, we're also focused on making all our communities, including our Hispanic communities, attractive and affordable for New Yorkers of every income level. New York always has been, and always must be, una ciudad de oportunidad para todos. And the most important investment we've made en nuestra ciudad de oportunidad is the dramatic turnaround we've begun in our schools.
"If eight years ago, I'd told you that in 2009 our public school students would be setting the pace for students across the state - including in our affluent suburbs - you would have thought: este hombre esta loco! But as The New York Times reported this week, that's just what's happening. And Hispanic and African-American students are leading the way, cutting the racial achievement in classrooms that's been the shame of our city for far too long. We've still got a long way to go. But we're definitely headed in the right direction.
"President Obama has seen our success in education - and has singled out our schools as a model for big-city schools coast-to-coast. Like good schools, safe streets and good housing are key to opportunity for all as well. With crime down 36 percent since 2001, we remain the safest big city in the nation.
"We're also continuing to produce affordable housing at an historic pace. In fact, we've done so much, so well in building affordable housing that President Obama noticed that too. And he named our housing commissioner, Shaun Donovan, as his Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
"There's also another New Yorker that I'm eager to see take on major new national responsibilities. That's what I told President Obama at the White House four months ago. Then I proudly testified on her behalf last month. And I'll be cheering with all of you when - very likely later today - the U.S. Senate confirms Judge Sonia Sotomayor's historic appointment to the Supreme Court.
"As someone who has beaten all the odds to rise to the highest level of her profession, Judge Sotomayor is the quintessential New York success story. She proves that you really can get what you work for. El que la sigue, la consigue. And in the years to come, I look forward to helping all of you to write many more such success stories, together, in communities across this city.
"New York is the world's most diverse city and that makes us also the world's greatest city. Now we'll make it even greater. And working together we can make sure that the best days, for all New Yorkers, are still to come. Mil gracias a todos, y que Dios los bendiga."
Stu Loeser / Evelyn Erskine (212) 788-2958
Download the letter (in PDF)