October 7, 2020

New York Legislators Emphasize Need to Increase Support for Primary Care in Light of COVID-19 Challenges

Assemblymember Richard Gottfried and New York State Senator Gustavo Rivera

“The lack of primary care access in communities of color has actually led to some of those communities being struck worse by COVID-19,” said New York State Senator Gustavo Rivera, Chair of the Senate Health Committee, during his opening remarks for a special legislative briefing held by PCDC.

The online event, moderated by PCDC CEO, Louise Cohen, focused on the importance of primary care to New York communities and highlighted the experience of primary care providers in the state during COVID-19 thus far. Assemblymember Richard Gottfried joined Senator Rivera in giving opening remarks for the event before hearing from a panel of three physicians from across the state who painted a clear picture of what has transpired within the primary care sector over the last several months.

Cohen introduced the conversation by emphasizing the need to ensure that primary care is the centerpiece of the health care system going forward. “We think it’s extremely important to make primary care accessible for all New Yorkers, especially for low-income communities of color that have historically had the least access,” she said.

Senator Rivera echoed Cohen by referring to the district he represents in the Bronx as one that, like many others, has fought for generations for essential care that is lacking there. This lack of access put those communities at increased risk for COVID-19, said Rivera, explaining that, “When there’s a generational lack of access to care, there are deep health disparities that already exist.”

According to Assemblymember Gottfried, Chair of the Assembly Health Committee, a key cause of these issues is a lack of investment in primary care. “We seriously, dramatically underfund primary care,” he said. In his opening remarks, Assemblyman Gottfried identified the “three P’s” that primary care needs in order to function well: people, places, and payment. He explained that without people choosing to go into primary care as a profession, places for them to work, or sufficient payment, primary care cannot reach its full potential.

The Assemblymember emphasized the need to do something about the underfunding of primary care and noted that some states have acted to increase the percentage of health care spending going to primary care, stating that he hopes to move New York in that direction.