Press release – Assembly Passes Reproductive Health Act

Protecting Reproductive Health Care:
Assembly Passes Reproductive Health Act

Statement by Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried

     Today, the Assembly Health Committee reported and the Assembly overwhelmingly passed the Reproductive Health Act (RHA), A.1748, introduced by Assembly Member Deborah Glick.  The RHA eliminates outdated language in New York State law; guarantees a woman’s right to choose; and ensures constitutionally protected access to safe, legal abortion.  It also takes New York’s abortion law out of the Penal Law and puts it in the Public Health Law where it belongs.  Reproductive freedom is fundamental and must be secured.

The U.S. Supreme Court will very likely soon have a majority of judges who oppose protecting reproductive choice.  This, and Republican control of Congress and the White House, makes it more important than ever for New York to pass the Reproductive Health Act.

As chair of the Assembly Health Committee, a founding member of the New York State Bipartisan Pro-Choice Legislative Caucus, and someone who has been active with NARAL since 1969, protecting and strengthening reproductive rights and access to care are among my highest priorities.  New York’s own landmark law on abortion – enacted three years before Roe v. Wade decision – provides most, but not all, the protections of Roe.

The RHA adds a provision to the Public Health Law saying that any appropriately licensed health care practitioner such as a physician assistant, nurse practitioner, or professional midwife may perform an abortion up to 24 weeks of pregnancy, or if there is an absence of fetal viability, or if the abortion is necessary to protect the life or health of the woman.  In contrast, the current abortion provision in the state Penal Law says only a physician may perform an abortion and only allows an abortion after 24 weeks when necessary to protect the life of the woman.  The RHA would strengthen New York’s law to fully cover all the provisions of the Roe v. Wade decision, and all applicable laws and regulations governing health care in New York will also apply.

While we in New York have been working to protect women’s health, state legislatures and governors across the country have been working to pass unconstitutional anti-choice bills.  New York is a pro-choice state – with a history of pro-choice governors, legislators and other elected officials – because we have so many active pro-choice advocates.  As Washington threatens reproductive health care rights and access, it is more critical than ever that we organize and fight to protect every woman’s reproductive rights.

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Times-Union: N.Y. reps urge keeping women’s health mandates under Obamacare

By Claire Hughes, 1/11/17

A state legislative proposal requiring health insurers in New York to cover contraception without co-payments, now mandated by Obamacare, has been reintroduced by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman as Republicans in Congress seek to undo the federal law.

Also Wednesday, in Washington U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat, urged federal lawmakers to keep the no-cost contraceptive provisions of the law, formally the Affordable Care Act, along with access to mammograms and cervical cancer screenings. Gillibrand has filed an amendment to the federal 2017 budget that would retain these parts of the law.

Buffalo News – Cuomo proposes prescription drug price controls

By Tom Precious, 1/11/17

ALBANY – The state will establish a new cost-control system to stop some “unconscionable” drug companies from gouging consumers with high prescription drug prices, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Wednesday.

In his sixth — and final — State of the State address, Cuomo said he will propose in his upcoming budget the creation of a state review board to establish a “fair price” that New York will pay for individual prescription drugs in its Medicaid program.

That price would then also apply to sales in the private marketplace.

Times-Union – Steck: Single payer state health plan could offset Obamacare cuts

By Rick Karlin, 1/7/17

Going to a statewide single-payer health insurance program could offset the financial hit facing New York state if Congress does away with the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, Assemblyman Phil Steck said during a town hall-type meeting on Saturday.

Steck, a Democrat whose 110th district includes Colonie and Schenectady, compared his vision of a statewide system to Medicare. “The most efficient health provider in the U.S. is Medicare,” he said, citing the low overhead and administrative costs with that national plan for those 65 and older.

 His remarks came during a wide-ranging open house during which several dozen constituents, braving an 18-degree morning, crammed into his small Schenectady office.

Journal-News: NY moves to expand medical marijuana products

By Lindsay Riback, 12/9/16

ALBANY – The state is poised to lift restrictions on medical marijuana growers that currently limit the number of products they can carry and prevent them from selling wholesale products to each other.

The state Department of Health announced this week that it will lift a regulation that limited the state’s five licensed medical marijuana companies to carrying only five products each, a limitation patient advocates had long been critical off.

The state agency also said it will begin accepting plans from the companies to sell their products wholesale to other registered organizations, which is expected to increase the variety of products available at dispensaries across the state.

Albany Times-Union: N.Y. hospital prices tied to market power, not quality

By Claire Hughes. 12/17/16

If a knee joint replacement costs $20,000 at Hospital A and $35,000 at Hospital B, what does that whopping 75 percent difference tell you about the likely results of surgery at each place?

Unfortunately, nothing.

Certainly not that Hospital B does a better job at knee replacements. Nor that hospital B has patients with more complex problems, provides more advanced care or is making up low government payments by upcharging your insurance company.

State of Politics: Assembly Health Chair Raises Concerns With Trump Impact

By Nick Reisman, 12/14/16

The longtime chairman of the Assembly Health Committee on Wednesday released a lengthy essay on the potential impacts on health-care policy by the incoming Donald Trump presidential administration.

Those concerns raised by Assemblyman Dick Gottfried, a Manhattan Democrat, range from the new federal administration gutting medical marijuana laws on the state level, scaling back benefits for Medicaid recipients and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which could blow a $2 billion hole in the state budget.

“The first step in stopping or reversing these attacks is to clearly understand what’s at stake and spread the word,” Gottfried wrote in the statement released by his office. “There is hardly anything more rigged against working people than health care. The Trump-Republican agenda will make it worse.

Gottfried’s solution to bolster health care in New York under Trump is his long-stalled proposal for universal coverage in New York through a single-payer system.

“Instead of regressive premiums, deductibles, co-pays and out-of-network charges, it would be funded fairly through broad-based taxes based on ability to pay,” Gottfried wrote. “The Assembly passed the bill in 2015 and 2016 – helping to move it from being “a great idea that could never happen” to something really achievable. In 2017, we will continue to work to build public support so it can ultimately pass the Senate.”

What the New Administration in Washington Means for  Health Policy in New York

By Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried

The election of Donald Trump and Republican control of Congress are a serious threat to programs and policies that protect our health.  Washington could make radical changes to Medicare, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act, reproductive care, and other programs that could drastically undermine our right to health care, cost New York State billions of dollars a year in federal funds, and destabilize health care providers.

The first step in stopping or reversing these attacks is to clearly understand what’s at stake and spread the word.  There is hardly anything more rigged against working people than health care.  The Trump-Republican agenda will make it worse.  This is a time to redouble efforts in more progressive states like New York to create universal access to health care, with funding based fairly on ability to pay, through an “improved Medicare for all” system.

For years, congressional attacks on funding and programs have been defeated by the threat or use of presidential vetoes.  Now we will have a president who may be leading the charge.

Politico NY – State to allow medical marijuana for chronic pain

By Josefa Velasquez, 12/1/16

ALBANY — Chronic pain will soon be added to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana, the state’s Department of Health announced Thursday.

“After conducting a thorough review of the scientific literature, it became clear that there may be certain benefits in the use of medical marijuana by patients suffering from chronic pain,” said Health Commissioner Howard Zucker. “Medical marijuana is already helping thousands of patients across New York State, and adding chronic pain as a qualifying condition will help more patients and further strengthen the program.

DOH will develop a proposed regulatory amendment that will include specific language specifying the chronic pain conditions that would qualify for medical marijuana. The language of the proposed amendment was not immediately available.

Albany Times-Union: State to add chronic pain to list of conditions medical marijuana can treat

By Matthew Hamilton, December 1

New Yorkers suffering from certain chronic pain will be able to use medical marijuana to alleviate their symptoms, the state Department of Health announced on Thursday.

That addition to the strict list of conditions treatable by medical marijuana products is one of the most significant strides the state has taken to expand the program to date.

It’s not yet clear exactly what kind of chronic pain will be treatable under the program’s rules. The department will develop a regulatory amendment, which will specify the chronic pain conditions that will qualify patients for the program. That amendment is to be published for public comment soon, the department said.