Rudy Kicks Kiddie Clinics

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Mayor Rudy. Giuliani may be trying to airbrush himself a softer election year image, but in his FY 1998 budget–for the third year in a row–he has attempted to axe health care for uninsured children.

The mayor has called for $10.1 million in cuts from the city Health and Hospitals Corporation budget that pays for the operation of 41 child health clinics serving uninsured children. In operation since the late 1800s, the clinics provide health examinations, immunizations and dental services for kids along with pre-natal care for mothers. Although the federal government pays for Medicaid-insured children at the clinics, the city contribution–matched by $4 million in state funds–pays for children with no public or private coverage, many of them immigrants.

“This is a kissing-babies kind of an issue, so I don’t understand why the hell the mayor would want to cut it,” says Leon Ransom, legislative aide to Brooklyn Democrat Enoch Williams, who chairs the City Council’s health committee.

Advocates are “as certain as we can possibly be” that the council will restore $6 million for the child health clinics, as it has each time the mayor has made this threat, says Suri Duitch, staff associate with the Citizens Committee for Children of New York. However, she adds, that won’t address the fact that many clinics are housed in buildings in a state of advanced disrepair. Nor will that amount cover the $2.5 million in collective bargaining agreements that have gone unpaid since 1994.

“Our long-term goal is to make the clinics.’ financial and organizational status permanent,” Duitch said. “They’re well-run, but they can’t continue to function with a sword over their heads”

Budget negotiations were about to get underway when City Limits went to press, and the fate of the child health clinics is likely to be decided by mid-June. Calls to the HHC press office were not returned.

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