Politico NY: Countering Cuomo, medical marijuana growers describe bumpy first year

By Addy Baird, 6/23/16

The first six months of the state’s medical marijuana program have been slow going for the five companies that grow and distribute the drug, according to the companies.

They have struggled to attract as many patients as they hoped, their owners say. They feel they have been hampered by strict state regulations that keep too few people from becoming eligible for medical marijuana. Those who are prescribed struggle to obtain the drug if they live too far away from a dispensary.

“If you wanted to use one word [to describe the last year], it would be either challenging or frustrating,” said Steve Stallmer, a spokesperson for Etain, one of the five registered organizations awarded a license in July.

The five registered organizations have formed a lobbying group to champion their cause in Albany. But their pleas have apparently not yet reached Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who on Wednesday said he hasn’t heard of any problems with patient access to medical marijuana.

Chelsea Now: Rally Highlight Hopes for Hopper-Gibbons House

By Sean Egan, June 22

The restoration of the only documented Underground Railroad site in Manhattan continues to be a cause to rally around.

Known as the Hopper-Gibbons House (339 W. 29th St., btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.), the building has been caught in a years-long battle between local preservationists — led by the Friends of the Hopper-Gibbons Underground Railroad Site — and the site’s owner, Tony Mamounas.

The building was landmarked in 2009 as part of the Lamartine Historic District, shortly after erroneously issued permits were revoked from Mamounas and Stop Work Orders were issued — though work on the house’s contentious fifth-floor addition reportedly continued. Court decisions in both 2013 and 2015 upheld that Mamounas must gain approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) before continuing construction. The LPC does, however, have the ability to make the owner restore the house to its former state; this is what preservationists have been advocating for as the owner prepares to go before the LPC with revised plans.

The site was home to Abigail Hopper-Gibbons, a noted abolitionist, who used the house as a safe place for runaway slaves making their way North, and was also court to visits from Horace Greeley and Frederick Douglass. The house was so well known, in fact, that angry rioters targeted it during the 1863 Draft Riots — causing the Hopper-Gibbons daughters to escape the pandemonium by fleeing across the flush roofs of the houses in the district.

Gannett – NY lawmakers OK food in funeral homes

By Jon Campbell, 6/22

ALBANY — Soon you will be able to have a sandwich or a snack while mourning the loss of a loved one in New York.

State lawmakers passed a bill last week allowing funeral homes to serve non-alcoholic beverages and small food items like sandwiches, baked goods and platters.

If signed by Cuomo, the measure would put an end to New York’s decades-long ban on providing food in funeral homes, which has long been part of state Department of Health regulations.

Funeral home directors and caterers have pushed back against state-level food bans in recent years, even challenging Pennsylvania’s ban in federal court.

In a memo attached to the bill, the measure’s sponsors — Republican Sen. Betty Little of the North Country and Democratic Assemblyman Richard Gottfried of Manhattan — said wakes often run for several hours, leaving attendees searching for refreshments.

City Limits – Fewer hospitals, more worries: What medical mergers mean for health care in NYC

By Toni Kamins, 6/22

These days the Mount Sinai Health System (MSHS) name and logo are omnipresent in Manhattan with a few outposts in parts of Brooklyn and Queens. Appended to pre-existing hospital and health-care facility signs – New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital, Beth Israel Hospital, many dozens of group medical practices, urgent-care centers, testing labs, and diagnostic and imaging centers – they are the outward manifestation of New York’s (and the country’s) rapidly changing health-care delivery environment. But the changes go far beyond mere names and signage; they represent the corporatization of one of our most basic services.

One recent change, the announcement in late May that MSHS will close or significantly downsize its Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital over the next four years, has sent a shockwave through lower Manhattan. Neighborhoods such as Chelsea and the West Village, which are still reeling from the health-services void left by the closing of St. Vincent’s hospital in 2010, will now have additional challenges as geography coupled with Manhattan traffic result in longer—perhaps life-threateningly long—trips to emergency rooms attached to far-away full-service hospitals.

PRESS RELEASE: Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act Passes Assembly

PRESS RELEASE

“Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act” Passes Assembly

Bill Sets Standards for Adequate Hospital, Nursing Home Staffing

(6/14/16 – Albany)  The New York State Assembly today passed the “Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act” (A8580A/S782) with bi-partisan support.  The bill would set a maximum number of patients that nurses and other “direct care staff” can care for in hospitals and nursing homes (staffing ratios) and was based on peer-reviewed academic and evidence-based recommendations.

“Safe staffing is a critical step to ensuring the safety of patients and the safety of nurses,” said Assembly Member Aileen Gunther, the lead sponsor of the bill. “Study after study has shown that investments made in nurses are good investments – whether it’s ending mandatory overtime, requiring safe patient handling policies, or setting safe staffing ratios. As our system of care is evolving, patient outcomes are a key factor in determining provider payments. Safe staffing will improve outcomes, save money, and save lives.”

“Safe staffing saves lives, improves outcomes and reduces avoidable patient injuries,” said Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried.  “Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) determined the odds of patient death increased by 7% for each additional patient the nurse must care for at one time.  The ratios and hours specified in this bill are based on peer-reviewed and evidence-based recommendations, and will ensure that hospitals and nursing homes are safer and provide higher quality care.”

Chelsea Now: A House Divided: Community Debates Fate of 404 W. 20th St.

By Sean Egan, 6/9/16The sale of 404 W. 20th St. for $7.4 million set in motion the current dispute over proposed changes to the historic house. Photo by Sean Egan.

The sale of 404 W. 20th St. for $7.4 million set in motion the current dispute over proposed changes to the historic house. Photo by Sean Egan.

BY SEAN EGAN | Who can truly lay claim to pride of ownership, when it comes to what is widely regarded as the oldest house in Chelsea: those who say its structural and historical integrity must be preserved, or the person who bought it for $7.4 million and wants to make extensive renovations?

Built in 1830 and purchased in 2015 by British banker Ajoy Veer Kapoor, the home at 404 W. 20th St. (btw. Ninth & 10th Aves.) sits within the Cushman Row of the Chelsea Historic District, making any attempts at alteration subject to review by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). The renovations, which would significantly increase the size of the house, would require most of the original house to be destroyed in the process, as the new owner attests that the house is structurally unsound.

Gannett: Lawmakers Made Final Push for Medical Marijuana Reforms

By Joseph Spector, 6/8

ALBANY — Advocates for expanding the state’s medical-marijuana program said Wednesday they will push for a package of reforms to be approved by the state Legislature before the legislative session ends next week.

The state’s medical-marijuana program, which started Jan. 1, allows patients with serious illnesses to get the drug in non-smokeable forms. But the program has been beset with criticism for limited access and not enough doctors being able to prescribe the drug.

“Due to a lack of physician participation and a highly restrictive list of conditions, there are simply not enough patients to able to access what was supposed to be a ‘compassionate’ system,” Kate Hintz, a North Salem, Westchester County, mother, said at a Capitol news conference.

Hintz’ five-year-old daughter, Morgan, suffers from a rare form of epilepsy.

“We were told that New York’s program would be an example of how to get medical marijuana right, and instead we have fallen far short of that goal,” she said.

VIDEO: Capital Tonight re: Single Payer Healthcare

I was on Capital Tonight with Liz Benjamin discussing my “New York Health Act” single-payer bill, as well as several other end-of-session health policy issues including heroin treatment and medical use of marijuana.  Check out the video here.

PRESS RELEASE – 6/1 Assembly Passes NY Health Universal Healthcare Bill

Assembly Passes “NY Health” Universal Health Care Bill

The New York State Assembly passed the “New York Health Act” universal health care bill (A. 5062A/S. 3525A) by an overwhelming majority on Wednesday, June 1, for the second year in a row.  New York Health would provide universal, complete health care coverage to every New Yorker without deductibles, co-pays, or limited provider networks.

“Health insurance plans have now asked the State for a 17% rate increase, with some plans as high as 45%,” said Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried, lead Assembly sponsor of the bill.  “Year after year, the cost of coverage for families and employers goes up faster than wages and inflation.  Premiums, deductibles, co-pays, out-of-network charges, and uncontrolled drug costs undermine health care and family finances, and are a heavier burden on employers and taxpayers.”

Legislative Gazette: For second year in a row, Assembly passes universal health care bill

By Simon Rosenbluth, 6/2

The Assembly voted 86-53 Wednesday to pass universal health care legislation in New York, marking the second time in two years the bill passed the Democrat-controlled house.

The issue of health care has received increased attention since the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. But some state lawmakers, physicians, nurses and patients say the federal program doesn’t go far enough and legal challenges are still threatening its full implementation.

The New York Health bill (A.5062-a) passed by the Assembly Wednesday would provide universal, complete health care coverage to every New Yorker without deductibles, co-pays, or limited provider networks.

“Health insurance plans have now asked the state for a 17 percent rate increase, with some plans as high as 45 percent,” said Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried, lead Assembly sponsor of the bill. “Year after year, the cost of coverage for families and employers goes up faster than wages and inflation. Premiums, deductibles, co-pays, out-of-network charges, and uncontrolled drug costs undermine health care and family finances, and are a heavier burden on employers and taxpayers.”