City & State – Setting the Agenda: Health

By Ashley Hufpl, November 25

In the wake of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announcement in April that the federal goverment had approved an $8 billion Medicaid waiver so that New York can apply that money to reform the state’s healthcare system, the main goal of the state Senate during the 2015 legislative session will be to implement major healthcare system changes. Meanwhile, the Assembly will seek to pass publicly funded, single-payer health coverage.

With the waiver, the state will overhaul the current system to fully implement the Medicaid Redesign Team reforms, such as promoting community-level collaborations and lowering avoidable hospital admissions by 25 percent over the next five years.

“Watching that will be a great thing,” state Sen. Kemp Hannon, chair of the Senate Health Committee, said. “We’re dealing with very difficult populations at the moment, and so it requires a great deal more of thought and configuration.”

Assemblyman Richard Gottfried agreed, saying he expected legislative proposals to arise during the implementation process.

“I haven’t seen an agenda for legislative action beyond monitoring and helping to shape implementation,” Gottfried, chair of the Assembly Health Committee, said. “The state is making a massive move toward integrated delivery systems and care coordination. I think that’s a strong concept, but the Legislature and all New Yorkers need to make sure this is implemented in ways that protect individual healthcare providers and individual patients.”

Gottfried will be focusing on getting his bill, titled New York Health, to the Assembly floor for a vote. The bill would provide publicly sponsored single-payer health coverage, like Medicare, for everyone in the state. In 2011 Vermont became the first state to move to a single-payer system, which will be up and running in the state by 2017.

“I think virtually every problem that we face in healthcare in New York—whether as patients or providers or employers or taxpayers— is made worse and more difficult to solve because of our insurance-based healthcare system,” Gottfried said. “I think moving New York toward a common-sense universal public coverage program is enormously important.”

The bill last passed the Assembly in 1992 and now faces major hurdles, including the Medicaid waiver and the federal requirements from the Affordable Care Act. Gottfried is also unlikely to get much support in the Republican-controlled state Senate.

“The major difficulty of that— single-payer—is the federal government has the rules for two of the biggest sources of medical payment in the state: Medicare and Medicaid,” Hannon said. “The challenge, then, if you want to change the system is, How do you get the federal government to change their Medicaid and Medicare [requirements] and not scare the population that’s being covered by [the two programs]?”

There are 5.8 million people in the state covered under the Medicaid program alone, Hannon noted.

“The insurance industry and its allies have always opposed this concept,” Gottfried said. “Fortunately, they do not control the Assembly, and I think this issue will help hasten the day where they don’t control the state Senate, either.”

Both Hannon and Gottfried said the commercialized delivery of outpatient care needs to be confronted in the upcoming legislative session. In recent years there has been a significant expansion of urgent care clinics, as well as retail clinics in pharmacies and supermarkets. Currently the state has no laws addressing these emerging outpatient options.

Although outpatient clinics can serve an important purpose as an alternative to an emergency room visit for minor ailments, Gottfried is concerned about large retail chains taking business away from smaller primary care doctors.

Walmart, for example, has recently opened five primary care locations in South Carolina and Texas, and plans to expand more nationally.

“Right now there is nothing in New York law to stop that from happening here,” Gottfried said. “I think that kind of development would be very harmful to healthcare in New York. I think it really makes a difference whether your doctor is responsible to himself or herself or is responsible ultimately to corporate executives and stockholders.”

Along with the new emerging outpatient services and Medicaid waiver reform, there are ongoing issues with New York’s health information technology. The state has been rolling out SHIN-NY, a secure network for sharing clinical patient data across the state, and I-STOP, which monitors the prescribing of controlled substances to combat drug abuse.

“Lots of questions concerning that— How it would work? Who would be able to access the content? How people would opt in to their individual records or opt out, privacy concerns—all those need to be done,” Hannon said. “There’s a work group going on that the Legislature is a part of, but the more we discuss it, the farther we get down the road to where it can be resolved—and it has to be resolved.”

Several additional policy areas will also be addressed in 2015.

Last month Cuomo unveiled a new task force to end HIV/AIDS in New York. The state aims to provide better access to condoms, promote public outreach campaigns and offer other initiatives to end the epidemic.

The state Senate also created a task force last year to prevent Lyme disease. More than 450 new cases of Lyme disease were documented in 2014 in New York, and the federal Centers for Disease Control estimates that number will continue to rise. Hannon would like to continue the state’s efforts by carrying out recommendations in the task force’s report.

Additionally, Hannon proposes to address the potential hazards of electronic cigarettes by making sure they are covered by the Clean Air Act and ensuring their liquid nicotine refills have proper labels that identify the substance as dangerous and addictive.

“Right now you pick it up and it doesn’t look any different from some kind of cherry juice enhancer for soda or something,” Hannon said. “We need to monitor all that and move forward.”

Chelsea Now: Exhibit Charts Luxury Building Workers’ Struggle to Join Union

By Eileen Stukane, 11/20/14

Courtesy of 32BJ William Rosado, porter at 520 W. 23rd St., poses with his photo. At right is the exhibit’s host, Lowell Kern. Courtesy of 32BJ
William Rosado, porter at 520 W. 23rd St., poses with his photo.
At right is the exhibit’s host, Lowell Kern.

Working for subpar wages and limited benefits in luxury buildings whose units often sell for over $1 million, a group of service workers have spent the past two years engaged in public and behind-the-scenes efforts to join the 32BJ Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Documentation of that ongoing struggle has been preserved in a photo/video exhibit that’s open to the public, and takes place in the home of a West Chelsea resident at odds with his co-op board.

Assembly Single Payer Healthcare Hearings

ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON HEALTH
Richard N. Gottfried, Chair
NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARINGS

SUBJECT:  “New York Health” bill to create state single payer health coverage

PURPOSE: Receive testimony concerning the “New York Health” bill

SYRACUSE                                     ROCHESTER
Thursday, December 4, 10 AM        Monday, December 8, 10 AM
Medical Alumni Auditorium              City Council Chambers
Weiskotten Hall                               Rochester City Hall
Upstate Medical University              “A” Building, 3rd Floor
766 Irving Avenue                           30 Church Street

BUFFALO                                         NEW YORK CITY
Wednesday, Dec 10, 10 AM      Tuesday, Dec 16, 10 AM
Roswell Park Cancer Inst.          New York University
Hohn Auditorium                        Grand Hall 5th Floor
Research Studies Center        Center for Academic & Spiritual Life
Elm & Carlton Street                  238 Thompson Street

MINEOLA                                                   ALBANY
Wednesday, Dec 17, 10 AM               Tuesday, January 13, 10 AM
Nassau Cty. Legislative Chamber       Hearing Room B
Theodore Roosevelt Executive           Legislative Office Building
and Legislative Building
1550 Franklin Avenue

PLEASE NOTE: LOCATION FOR ROCHESTER IS CHANGED FROM A PREVIOUS ANNOUNCEMENT

NY Times Letter to the Editor: Coping with High Deductibles

Letters to the Editor, re: Unable to Meet the Deductible or the DoctorNY Times, October 29:

We face high deductibles, rising premiums, co-payments, narrow networks and out-of-network charges because insurance companies — focused mainly on their bottom line — control most health coverage. As your article shows, deductibles are a real obstacle to medically necessary care. The notion that they prevent “unnecessary” care is a myth.

It’s not just plans under the Affordable Care Act. Employers are also shifting more costs to employees, or dropping coverage entirely.

The answer is universal “single payer” health coverage, without deductibles, co-payments or limited networks. Health care dollars would pay for health care, not insurance company overhead and profits. Progressive states like New York should lead the way.

RICHARD N. GOTTFRIED
New York, Oct. 18, 2014

The writer is chairman of the New York State Assembly’s Committee on Health and sponsor of a bill to establish a single-payer system in New York State.

Capital NY: The Urgent-Care Boom

By Dan Goldberg, Capital New York, October 29

The new urgent care center on Broadway between 102nd and 103rd doesn’t look like a doctor’s office and definitely doesn’t look like a hospital.

With its open floor plan, plush chairs and oddly placed modern art, it looks like a upmarket lobby, in part because the designer has a background in hotels.

The waiting room at Cure Urgent Care is meant to provide a sense of calm, as is the logo out front—a green medical cross with a smile underneath.

Citizens Union Endorsement

I’m proud to be endorsed by Citizens Union!  Below is a clip from their 2014 general election endorsements, and here are links to the full press release and my candidate questionnaire:

“Citizens Union Chair Peter Sherwin and Executive Director Dick Dadey today announce Citizens Union’s candidate endorsements in 12 races for the November 4th General Election, and its support for two of the three ballot proposals…

…Citizens Union also endorses incumbents James Brennan (AD 44) and Richard Gottfried (AD 75), who continue to be diligent and thoughtful stewards of reform, and models of elected officials serving the public with integrity and wisdom…”

Legislative Gazette: 72% of Airbnb rentals in NYC are illegal, AG says

By Jessica Piccinni, October 17

A report released by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman last Thursday revealed widespread illegal activity from the online hotel company Aribnb.

The report, titled “Airbnb in the City,” analyzed bookings of short-term rentals in New York City between Jan. 1, 2010 and Jun. 2, 2014, and found that 72 percent of those transactions violated New York zoning laws.

As a result of the findings, Schneiderman announced a new joint initiative between the AG’s Internet and Taxpayer Protection Bureaus and the city of New York to investigate and eradicate illegal hotel activity in the five boroughs.

Times-Union: State, Jail Health Care Providers Settle for $200,000

By James Odato, September 24

A corporate health care provider used by three Capital Region county jails entered into an agreement with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman that requires it to pay $200,000 in restitution and penalties and submit to monitoring in 13 upstate counties.

According to terms obtained by the Times Union, the settlement between the attorney general and Correctional Medical Care resolves claims of dangerous practices as well as unsatisfactory and unqualified staffing that arose after six deaths of inmates in CMC’s care at five county lockups from 2009 to 2011. A probe found serious deficiencies that included unlicensed and inexperienced staff, understaffing, lack of medical oversight and failure to adhere to medical and administrative protocols.

People’s Climate March

I participated in the historic People’s Climate March in Manhattan on Sunday, September 21, 2014.  An estimated 300,000 participants made history by taking part in the largest climate march ever held. With President Obama and other world leaders meeting at the U.N. summit on climate change in New York the following week, we took to the streets to demand action to action to preserve the environment and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It was a day to show the world the people power of the international movement to promote policies to keep fossil fuels in the ground, create meaningful “green” jobs, and put our communities back to work building the infrastructure we really need to address the climate crisis.

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With Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez of New York, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

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The People’s Climate March was the largest pro-environment demonstration in history, with its estimated 300,000 participants far exceeding a previous climate march held in Oslo, Norway, that numbered 100,000 participants.

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With NYS Assembly Member Deborah Glick, Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, and Jo Anne Simon, Democratic nominee for Assembly in Brooklyn’s 52nd District.

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Interview with reporter before the start of the People’s Climate March.

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With NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman before the start of the People’s Climate March.

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With NYC Public Advocate Tish James before the start of the People’s Climate March.

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With U.S. Representative Nydia Velazquez of New York, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and Manhattan Borough President in the People’s Climate March.

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With NYS Senator Liz Krueger, NYS Assembly Member Deborah Glick, and State Senator Brad Hoylman before the People’s Climate March.

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Signing up for a “climate ribbon” on Central Park West before the start of the People’s Climate March.

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The participants in the historic People’s Climate March stretched down Central Park West for as far as the eye could see. More than 300,000 people are estimated to have participated in the largest environmental demonstration in history.

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The Villager: Dozens of Pols Join Coalition, Look to Burst Airbnb’s Balloon

By Zach Williams, September 18, 2014

Elected officials last week announced a new coalition to promote affordable housing and put Airbnb under increased scrutiny.

They said at a Sept. 12 City Hall steps press conference that Airbnb promotes illegal hotels and enables unscrupulous building owners to flout a 2010 law banning apartment sublets of less than 30 days. The new organization, Share Better, will also advertise extensively to counter Airbnb’s own recent ad blitz. The San Francisco-based “home-sharing” company meanwhile denied wrongdoing and dismissed the new organization as beholden to city hotel interests.

The new group did not specify how many affordable housing units have been lost due to Airbnb’s activities. Councilmember Corey Johnson said, though, that action must be taken to protect the city’s remaining rent-regulated units.

“We all are in favor of the share economy, but what about the fair economy?” he said. “It’s got to be fair to rent-stabilized tenants. Rent-stabilized tenants are becoming an endangered species and if we don’t step up as elected officials — as advocates — we are going to lose them.”

Assemblymember Dick Gottfried — who co-sponsored the 2010 law with state Senator Liz Krueger, who was also at the event — said Airbnb ads present an image far from the reality of its roughly 20,000 New York City listings.