Budget Season Photos

Photos credit – Assembly Photography

Opening remarks at VOCAL's HIV/AIDS Legislative Advocacy Day, with Senator Gustavo Rivera.

Opening remarks at VOCAL’s HIV/AIDS Legislative Advocacy Day, with Senator Gustavo Rivera.

Joint Conference Committee on Health meets on the budget

Joint Conference Committee on Health meets on the budget

More from the Joint Conference Committee, with Sen. Hannon (L), A/M Cahill (R), and A/M Raia (standing)

More from the Joint Conference Committee, with Sen. Hannon (L), A/M Cahill (R), and A/M Raia (standing)

Packing the stairs for the Share Better Coalition's rally against illegal hotels

Packing the stairs for the Share Better Coalition’s rally against illegal hotels

Speaker Heastie leads press conference before Assembly passage of Reproductive Health Act

Speaker Heastie leads press conference before Assembly passage of Reproductive Health Act

More budget conversations with Assembly Members Barron (L) and Titone (R)

Discussion with Assembly Members Barron (L) and Titone (R)

Speaking on the budget

Speaking on the budget

Rolling Stone – NY Readies Restrictive Medical Marijuana Law

By Daniel Kreps, March 30

While states like Washington, Colorado and Alaska have enacted laws decriminalizing weed, New York is only now moving forward with a plan to legalize medical marijuana. However, when the lawmakers in Albany do finally sign off on the bill, the state’s Health Department has placed so many restrictions on medical marijuana that many of its potential patients won’t be able to get their hands on it. For those who do qualify, another odd restriction dictates that the medical marijuana can’t be smoked.

The New York Times reports that the new bill would only allow for 20 medical dispensaries, run by five organizations, to be established throughout the state, which would handcuff accessibility for many potential patients. Only patients suffering from a shortlist of 10 “severe debilitating or life-threatening” conditions, ranging from multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s Disease to ALS and AIDS, would be allowed to acquire medical marijuana.

NY Times: New York State’s Medical Marijuana Rules Shaping Up As Unusually Restrictive

By Jesse McKinley & Catherine Saint Louis, March 29

Assemblyman Richard N. Gottfried, a Democratic sponsor of the medical marijuana legislation, criticized “senseless burdensome restrictions” on the program. Credit Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times

ALBANY — When New York State’s lawmakers were mulling legalizing the medical use of marijuana last summer, some proponents feared that the proposed law was so restrictive that it would prevent many patients from receiving the drug.

Now, with the state’s Health Department close to issuing final regulations about the new program, the law’s supporters say their fears may soon be realized.

The law itself is quite restrictive: Only 10 conditions qualify for medical use of marijuana; the drug may not be smoked; and New York will initially allow only 20 dispensaries across the state, run by five organizations.

Medical Daily – NY Medical Marijuana Bill: Why the Compassionate Care Act Will Only Benefit a Select Few

By Kristin Magaldi, March 13

As New York becomes the 23rd state to enact a medical marijuana program (MMP), many New York residents are, to put it lightly, dissatisfied with the overall outcome of the final bill. Despite the 22 other models, ranging from the liberality of California to the full-blown legalization within Colorado, to a more moderate template from our neighbor New Jersey, New York has taken its own course completely.

Because of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s exaggerated preoccupation with the risks of medical marijuana over its benefits, it is nearly impossible for the bill to function as a statewide program. With its unending ambiguities and built-in clauses that allow the program to be pulled at any time, NY’s program may never actually reach its severely limited number of patients.

1. Let’s Break Down The Basics…

March Health Committee Update

Assembly Health Committee Update:
Reproductive Health Act Goes to the Assembly floor
Bill Would Make “Roe” State Law

The Assembly Committee on Health favorably reported 23 bills at its meetings on Tuesday, March 3 and Tuesday, March 24, including the Reproductive Health Act (RHA), sponsored by Assembly Member Deborah Glick.   The RHA aligns state public health law with existing federal law.

In practice, the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision has guaranteed abortion rights in New York since 1973.  However, while New York’s own state law is similar to the protections of Roe, there are some protections in Roe that would be lost if it were overturned.    The RHA codifies in state law the rights that Roe has provided since 1973.  “The right to reproductive freedom is a fundamental right.  New York State must strengthen reproductive health rights and respect women’s decisions,” said Assembly Health Committee chair Richard N. Gottfried, a co-sponsor of the bill.  The bill is expected to be passed by the Assembly on Wednesday, March 25.

Press Round-Up: NY Health Act Economic Study

UMass-Amherst Economics Chair Gerald Friedman recently produced a fiscal analysis of the New York Health Act universal healthcare bill.  According to Professor Friedman’s report, New Yorkers would save $45 billion net even after expanding coverage to all, accounting for increased utilization, and paying providers fairly.

The release of the report generated great press coverage across the state.  For a summary of the report, see the press release here.  The full document can be found here, and video of Professor Friedman’s presentation here.

Here are some news stories covering the release of the report:

“Universal Healthcare for Ailing New York,” by Tim Macaluso, Rochester City Newspaper.

“State Should Address Single Payer System,” by Ken Hall, Times Herald-Record.

“The Economics of Universal Healthcare,” Capital Tonight with Liz Benjamin, (video.) 

“Report: State-Funded Healthcare Would Save NY $45 Billion,” By Derek Hawkins, Public News Service (includes audio).

“Single Payer Advocates Urge Unions to “Get Ahead of the Curve,” by Joe Maniscalco, Labor Press.

“Behind the Scenes – Single Payer Healthcare’s Sales Pitch to New Yorkers,” by David Robinson, Albany Business Review.

“Report: Single-Payer Health Coverage Could Save New York Billions of Dollars,” by David Robinson, Albany Business Review.

“Report: Universal Health Care Could Save NYS $45 Billion,” by Tracey Drury, Buffalo Business First..

“New study touts benefits of single-payer health care for New York; Health plans disagree,” by Avery Schneider, WBFO 88.7 (includes audio.) 

“Study: Single Payer Health Would Save $45 Billion in NY,” by Claire Hughes, Albany Times-Union.

“Gottfried: New Study “Dramatically” Changes Single Payer Debate,” by Ashley Hupfl, City & State.

“Single-payer health model could save NY $71B, says economist,” Crain’s Health Pulse.


Rochester ‘City Newspaper’ – Universal Healthcare for Ailing New York

By Tim Louis Macaluso, March 18

It wouldn’t take much to convince most New Yorkers — both employees and employers — that they will pay substantially more for health care coverage in 2019 than they do today. But what would it take to convince them that the state could save $45 billion annually in health care costs, while providing all New Yorkers with better care?

It’s been a challenge for state Assembly member Richard Gottfried to muster support for his bill — the New York Health Act — which would bring universal health care to New York by 2019. He hopes that a recent study by the University Massachusetts Amherst will give the bill a boost.

Chelsea Now – CRDC Hears Strong Argument for NY Health Act


Life seems to revolve around insurance companies. They’re everywhere. After Sandy, this writer even had nightmares about them. That’s what made New York State Assembly’s Chair, Committee on Health, Richard Gottfried’s “Single-Payer” discussion with the Chelsea Reform Democratic Club (CRDC) so intriguing — a plan that will eliminate health care insurance companies, with their costs and profits, from the family budget.

The meeting, moderated by CRDC’s Executive Board member, Joel Vatsky, was held at Chelsea’s Elliott Center on the cold evening of February 19. It had passionate and sometimes heated exchanges on the pros and cons of Assemblymember Gottfried’s “Single-Payer” health care bill: New York Health, A7860. The bill would form a single public agency that would organize health care financing. It largely reflects the universal health care that Canada has used for the past 45 years. And, according to the World Bank, since then, the average Canadian’s life span has expanded to 2.5 years longer than the average American life (Can: 81.24 yrs., USA: 78.74 yrs.).

“If you want to find a country that rations care according to wealth, if you want to find a country where people have to go without health care in the midst of enormous wealth, if you want to find a country where people go bankrupt trying to keep themselves healthy, you’re living in it. And I want to change that!” declared Gottfried. “Last year, due to high deductibles, one third of American households who had health care coverage had someone in their family go without it, for financial reasons. And for two thirds of them, it was for a serious condition,” he stated, adding, “Healthcare is the leading cause of bankruptcy in America.”

Long Island Press – Gillibrand Backs Federal Medical Marijuana Bill

By Spencer Rumsey, 3/12

In an unlikely threesome, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) introduced a historic bill in the U.S. Senate Tuesday that would essentially end the federal prohibition on medical marijuana use.

Called the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States Act (aka CARERS), the legislation would let states legalize marijuana for medical purposes without federal interference and permit interstate commerce in cannabidiol oils known as CBD which are non-psychotropic components of medical marijuana.

Just as important from the research perspective, the act would reclassify marijuana from Schedule 1, the most severely limiting classification under the federal Controlled Substances Act, to Schedule 2, which would enable further scientific and medical study without the onerous restrictions currently imposed although it still would recognize marijuana’s “high potential for abuse.”

For veterans, the bill would allow physicians at the Veterans Administration to prescribe marijuana treatment. Banks would be able to provide checking accounts and other financial services to marijuana dispensaries.

PRESS RELEASE – Economic Study Shows Benefits of Universal Healthcare Bill

For Immediate Release:
March 10, 2015

Mischa Sogut, sogutm@assembly.state.ny.us, 518-455-4941

*Recording of the conference call releasing the report available on request*

Economic Study of NY Universal Healthcare Act Released

UMass Amherst Econ. Dept. Chair Documents $45B Net Savings to Families, Businesses, Taxpayers from “NY Health” Program

98% of Households Would Pay Less Than They Do Now and 200,000 Jobs Would Be Created

New York would net savings of $45 billion a year by creating a universal health plan, even after counting increased spending to cover the uninsured and eliminate co-payments, deductibles and out-of-network charges, according to an economic analysis released Tuesday, March 10. The Chair of the Economics Department at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst released the comprehensive economic study of the New York Health Act (A.5062, Gottfried/S.3525, Perkins), a proposed universal health care program for New York State.  The full report can be found here.