New healthcare program to offer coverage to uninsured Brooklynites

coney island hospital
Coney Island Hospital is one of three medical facilities that will treat uninsured Brooklynites under the new scheme.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

The city will allow uninsured Brooklynites access to healthcare services for little to no cost through a new program beginning this month. 

The program — called NYC Care — will allow residents who don’t meet the requirements for Medicaid, or other state insurance policies to access primary care doctors, dentists, surgeons, and a host of other services provided at any NYC Health + Hospital facility, the city’s public hospital system.

Enrollees will be assigned a primary care doctor and will have access to specialists — including mental health professionals and substance abuse counselors — which they’ll pay for on a sliding scale that’s dependent on the patient’s income. 

Users can access NYC Care’s services at one of three facilities in the borough — Coney Island Hospital, Kings County Hospital Center in East Flatbush, and Woodhull Medical Center in Bedford-Stuyvesant — using their “NYC Care Card.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who introduced the $100 million program in the Bronx last year, has hailed the initiative as the first “universal healthcare” plan in the country — although political fact checkers have labeled that claim as “mostly false.”

Policy experts say that NYC Care is more of an outreach effort than a major change in the system — since for years NYC Health + Hospitals has offered the same services to residents, regardless of their immigration status or ability to pay.

“It’s a modest but welcome step to improve access to healthcare,” said David Sandman, the president of the New York State Health Foundation, a private organization that provides grants for public health-related projects. “This is an advanced outreach program.” 

What sets NYC Care apart from the current, walk-in system instituted at public hospitals is its user-friendly approach, according to Sandman, who noted that the program provides 24/7 hotlines, books appointments quickly, and allows patients to choose one primary care doctor to serve as their go-to provider.

But NYC Care is not health insurance, as enrollees can only visit doctors at NYC Health and Hospital clinics, according to Sandman.

“Access is good, but health insurance would be a better move. That would have to happen at the state-wide level,” he said.

NYC Care first rolled out in the Bronx in August, and 10,000 residents had enrolled by December, the Mayor’s office reported

City Hall estimates that about half of New York’s 600,000 uninsured residents qualify for the program — including undocumented residents and “young invincibles,” or young people who don’t think they need healthcare.

And the initiative may help increase healthcare outreach in Brooklyn — which has some of the highest rates of uninsured residents in the city. According to a June report, Sunset Park and Windsor Terrace are home to the lowest numbers of health-insured residents in the city. 

To check your eligibility for NYC Care or any other state insurance program, visit www.nyccare.nyc or call 1-646-NYC-CARE.