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Release: Medical Marijuana Bill Passes Assembly Health Committe

The medical marijuana bill, the Compassionate Care Act (A.6357-A), passed the Assembly Health Committee today with a bipartisan vote of 20-4.  “The Compassionate Care Act is needed,” said Assembly Health Chair Richard N. Gottfried, sponsor of the bill, “even with Governor Cuomo’s Executive action on medical marijuana.”

In his State of the State message, Governor Cuomo endorsed the medical value of cannabis when he said: “New York has the opportunity to alleviate the pain and suffering of residents with cancer and other severe illnesses.  Medical research shows that the use of marijuana may alleviate the symptoms associated with serious debilitating or life threatening illnesses…It is time for New York to take action.”

However, Gottfried stressed, the 1980 Olivieri law the Governor is using has serious limitations and problems.  Many patients who could benefit from medical marijuana will not be helped under the 1980 law, such as children with severe epilepsy.  Relying on ordinary marijuana seized by the police or grown on the federal government’s farm, as the 1980 law does, raises serious concerns, beyond the lack of specially tailored strains.  Many patients (especially children) require other forms of cannabis.  “Medical science is well beyond where we were in 1980,” Gottfried said, “with tightly regulated cannabis producers in other states producing strains with different strengths and compositions to reflect patient conditions and needs.”

 “The Legislature needs to enact legislation this session that is more comprehensive,” Gottfried added.  “With the advantage of 20 states and the District of Columbia having gone before us, the Compassionate Care Act incorporates lessons learned and best practices from those states.”  The bill’s key features include:

  • Setting up a tightly regulated and controlled system for producing medical marijuana;
  • Practitioners licensed to prescribe controlled substances would certify patient need;
  • Certified patients would register with the Health Department;
  • Tightly regulated and controlled dispensaries would dispense medical marijuana;
  • The certification process and dispensing of medical marijuana would be included in the I-STOP prescription monitoring system for controlled substances; and
  • Producers and dispensers would be required to comply with detailed “seed to sale” security controls and regulations

Governor Cuomo Sets Stage for Strong Medical Marijuana Legislation

Governor Cuomo’s endorsement of the medical value of cannabis for many patients with serious debilitating and life-threatening conditions gives new strength to the issue.

His decision to activate the 1980 Olivieri law is an important interim step under the law available to him. But that law is very limited and cumbersome. I urge Governor Cuomo to join the effort to enact new comprehensive tightly-regulated legislation this session in Albany.

Science is well beyond where we were in 1980. In other states, tightly-regulated cannabis producers are able to produce strains of cannabis with different strengths and compositions to reflect patient conditions and needs. There are many patients who could benefit from medical marijuana who cannot be helped under the 1980 law, such as children with severe epilepsy.

For New York to have a comprehensive and well-working system, we need to pass legislation this year. Assembly bill A.6357 (Gottfried)/S.4406 (Savino) would set up a tightly regulated and controlled medical marijuana system.

Practitioners licensed to prescribe controlled substances could certify patient need, and certified patients would register with the Health Department. Both the certification process and dispensing of medical marijuana would be included in the I-STOP prescription monitoring system for controlled substances enacted in 2012. The Health Department would license and regulate entities to produce and dispense medical marijuana for certified patients. They would be required to comply with detailed “seed to sale” security controls and regulations. A clinical advisory committee made up predominately of health care professionals would advise the Health Commissioner on clinical matters.

December 5, Buffalo, NY: Assembly Medical Marijuana Hearing

On Thursday, December 5, Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N.
Gottfried will hold a hearing in Buffalo regarding medical use of marijuana. Currently, 20 states and the District of Columbia have medical marijuana laws. Assembly bill A.6357 (Gottfried)/S.4406 (Savino) would set up a tightly regulated and controlled medical marijuana system.  This legislation passed the Assembly in 2013 with strong bi-partisan support.

Under A. 6357, practitioners licensed to prescribe controlled substances could certify patient need, and certified patients would register with the Health Department. Both the certification process and dispensing of medical marijuana would be included in the I-STOP prescription monitoring system for controlled substances enacted in 2012. The Health Department would license and regulate “registered organizations” to produce and dispense medical marijuana for certified patients.

This hearing is the first of two on the subject.  The second will be held in Long Island on December 18.  For more information, please see:
http://assembly.state.ny.us/comm/Health/20131125/

What:
Public Hearing on medical marijuana

Who:
-Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried
-Medical professionals, caregivers, advocates, and researchers
-Clergy
-Patients and parents including Paige Figi, whose daughter’s story was covered by CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta

Where:
Common Council Chambers, 13th Floor
Buffalo City Hall
65 Niagara Square
Buffalo, NY

When:
Thursday, December 5, 10:00 AM

U.S. Senate passes ENDA, N.Y. Senate should pass GENDA

The U.S. Senate passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act with bi-partisan support.  This historic bill outlaws workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  Even in Washington, legislators agree that this kind of discrimination has no place in society.

New York has long been a leader on LGBT civil rights.  But while New Yorkers are protected against discrimination based on sexual orientation, State law does not cover gender identity.  As a result, transgender New Yorkers are left out of these protections.

The Gender Identity Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), which I sponsor in the Assembly (A.4226-A), with Sen. Daniel Squadron in the Senate (S.195-A), would add “gender identity or expression” to New York’s human rights laws to protect transgender New Yorkers.  GENDA has passed the Assembly six consecutive years, but it remains held up in the State Senate.  It is time for the State Senate to act and guarantee equal protection under the law for all New Yorkers.

New report detail torture of detainees aided by medical professionals

A shocking report released Nov. 4 confirms in detail the role of medical professionals in the torture of detainees in U.S. custody from 2002 to 2012.  An independent panel of distinguished military, medical, and legal experts found that physicians and psychologists working with the CIA helped design and implement cruel, inhumane, and degrading abuses of detainees, in clear conflict with established professional principles and laws. Although government agencies have taken steps to address some of these practices, the government continues to follow policies contrary to standards of medical ethics.

I was the only elected official serving on the panel.  I am the author of a bill in the New York legislature to bar any New York-licensed health care professional from cooperating with or participating in torture or improper treatment of prisoners, and I chair the State Assembly Committee on Health.

The panel’s recommendations include a full investigation of medical practices in detention facilities; improved instruction in human rights and ethical principles in military medical training; strengthening ethical standards among professional medical organizations; and passing of state laws disciplining health professionals for participation in abuses.

My bill, A. 4440 (Gottfried)/S. 2397 (Hoylman), would make participation in torture or improper treatment of a prisoner grounds for professional discipline of a New York-licensed health care professional, including revoking a license. The state licenses health care professionals and sets standards for professional conduct.  No physician or other health care professional should be allowed to use his or her education, training, and professional status to participate in the torture or improper treatment of prisoners.

The report, Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the War on Terror, details the role played by the Central Intelligence Agency’s “Office of Medical Services” in reviewing and approving abuses, as well as advising the Department of Justice on the legality of “enhanced interrogation” techniques such as waterboarding, wall slamming, and extreme sleep deprivation.  U.S. policies have required health professionals to participate in practices forbidden by professional ethical standards, and deceptively designated psychologists as “safety officers” in order to justify these policies.
Health care professionals deserve to know that professional ethics are backed up by the law.  I believe that our government’s torture program would have been greatly reduced, if not ended, if even a few physicians had refused to participate because their licenses were at stake.  I believe that would have sent a shock wave up to the highest levels.

The task force assembled by the Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP) and supported by the IMAP and the Open Society Foundations featured a range of practicing health care professionals, ethicists, military representatives, and experts on human rights and international law.  Participants included Dr. Allen Keller, Director of the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture; Brigadier General (Ret.) Steven Xenakis, MD; Leonard Rubenstein, Director of the Program on Human Rights, Health, and Conflict at Johns Hopkins; and Albert Shimkus of the U.S. Naval War College.  IMAP is a non-profit, non-partisan health care study institute located at Columbia University and dedicated to the principles of professionalism in medical conduct.  It is headed by David J. Rothman, Professor of Social Medicine at Columbia College of Physicians & Surgeons and Professor of History, Columbia University.

The full report can be found online through http://imapny.org  For more information on the legislation, including bill text and a summary, go to public.leginfo.state.ny.us and enter “A4440”.

October 22: Assembly Hearing on changes to state’s Early Intervention (EI) services

On Tuesday, October 22, providers, parents, and representatives of government and insurance plans will testify regarding changes to the state’s billing system for early intervention services (EI.)  The hearing, held by Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried, Insurance Committee Chair Kevin Cahill, and Oversight, Analysis, and Investigations Chair Andrew Hevesi, will investigate the Department of Health’s implementation of a statewide “fiscal agent” paying for early intervention services.

EI provides therapeutic and educational services to children up to 3 years old with developmental disabilities or delays.  Prior to 2012, EI providers were paid up front by counties, using State and county funds, and then the counties would seek reimbursement for any services covered by private insurance.  The 2012 state budget legislation authorized the Department of Health to instead contract with a third-party fiscal agent who would handle EI payments and collections.  The goal was to increase collection rates from private insurers, who had previously contributed only 2-3% of the total statewide program cost.

The system was supposed to be implemented by April 1, 2013, but numerous delays and difficulties have occurred.  The transition has produced widespread complaints of confusion and long delays in receiving payment, and statements that providers are being driven out of the EI program as a result.

What: Public Hearing on implementation of the fiscal agent for early intervention

Who:
•    Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried, Insurance Committee Chair Kevin Cahill, and Oversight, Analysis, and Investigations Chair Andrew Hevesi
•    Providers of early intervention services
•    Parents of children in the early intervention program
•    Representatives of health insurance plans
•    Officials from the New York State Department of Health and Department of Financial Services
•    Representatives of the Department’s fiscal agent

Where: Hearing Room C, Legislative Office Building, Albany, NY

When: Tuesday, October 22, 10:30 AM – 5 PM

December 18, Mineola, NY: Hearing on allowing Medical Marijuana in NYS

On Wednesday, December 18, Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried will hold a hearing in Mineola regarding medical use of marijuana.  Currently, 20 states and the District of Columbia have medical marijuana laws. Assembly bill A.6357 (Gottfried)/S.4406 (Savino) would set up a tightly regulated and controlled medical marijuana system.  This legislation passed the Assembly in 2013 with strong bi-partisan support.

Under A. 6357, practitioners licensed to prescribe controlled substances could certify patient need, and certified patients would register with the Health Department. Both the certification process and dispensing of medical marijuana would be included in the I-STOP prescription monitoring system for controlled substances enacted in 2012. The Health Department would license and regulate “registered organizations” to produce and dispense medical marijuana for certified patients.

This hearing is the second of two on the subject.  The first was held in Buffalo on December 5.  For more information, please see: http://assembly.state.ny.us/comm/Health/20131125/  The hearing will also be webcast live at: http://assembly.state.ny.us/av/

What:
Public Hearing on medical marijuana

Who:
-Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried
-Medical professionals, caregivers, advocates, and researchers
-Patients and parents including Paige Figi, whose daughter’s story was covered by CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta
-Small business owners
-Policy advocates

Where:
Nassau County Legislative Chambers
Theodore Roosevelt Executive and Legislative Building
1550 Franklin Avenue
Mineola, New York

When:
Wednesday, December 18, 10:00 AM

Medicare Open Enrollment Info Sessions

As you may know, Medicare’s open enrollment period has begun and will continue through December 7th.  During Fall Open Enrollment, people with Medicare can make changes to their existing Medicare coverage.  While you can make as many changes as you want to your Medicare coverage during this time, the last change you make will take effect on January 1, 2014.

To help you choose the plan best suited to your needs, a specialist from the Medicare Rights Center will discuss Medicare 2014 updates, Medicare savings programs, and Extra Help for the Park D Prescription Drug Benefit.

The Medicare Rights Center will also be available to connect you to programs that can help pay the costs associated with Medicare.

October 30, 2013
6:30pm – 8:00pm
Newman Conference Center, Baruch College
151 East 25th Street, Room 750

November 13, 2013
6:00pm – 8:00pm
Hudson Guild
441 West 26th Street

Co-sponsors: State Senators Brad Hoylman & Liz Krueger
Assembly Members Richard Gottfried & Brian Kavanagh
Councilmembers Dan Garodnick, Christine Quinn, & Rosie Mendez;
Community Boards 4, 5 & 6

If you cannot attend either of these events, please click here for more information about open enrollment.  For more information about the Medicare Rights Center, please visit their website at  www.medicarerights.org.  And of course, you can also call 800-MEDICARE . 

If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact my office at 212-807-7900.

Join me October 8: Learn what you need to know about Health Care Reform (and the new nystateofhealth exchange)

The Affordable Care Act is now in effect across the country.  Here in New York, people can sign up for health insurance at a new marketplace, called “New York State of Health: The Official Health Plan Marketplace.”  The Marketplace now offers free or low-cost health insurance options for eligible New Yorkers – individuals, families, and small business owners; coverage will begin on January 1, 2014.

Come learn what the new federal health care law means for New Yorkers,
Date: Tuesday, Oct. 8
Time: 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Location: Lighthouse International, 111 East 59th Street,  (bet. Lexington & Park)

Speakers: Marcia Okon, MCC Healthcare Exchange Counselor
Carrie Tracy, JD, Deputy Director, Health Initiatives, and
Alice Yaker, Director of Community Outreach
Moderated by Senator Liz Krueger

Counselors will be there to make an appointment
to assist you with enrollment.
Please RSVP to Susannah: spasquan AT nysenate.gov or 212-490-9535

Find out if you’re eligible, how to apply, what benefits and plan options are available, details on financial aid to help pay qualified New Yorkers’ insurance premiums, and details on tax credits for small businesses.

The Marketplace will tell you if you are eligible for free or low-cost insurance.  Free coverage will be provided through Medicaid for eligible adults and through Child Health Plus for children.  Tax credits will help reduce or eliminate premiums for many others.  The Marketplace will help reduce premiums and help you determine which private insurance plan is right for you, and how much financial assistance is available to reduce the cost of coverage.

For New Yorkers who already have health insurance through their employer, you can choose to keep your job-based insurance or get financial assistance to buy insurance on the marketplace if your present costs are more than 9.5% of your income.

Co-sponsors:

Congressmember Carolyn Maloney;

State Senators Brad Hoylman & Jose Serrano;

Assembly Members Dick Gottfried, Brian Kavanagh, & Dan Quart;

Council Members Dan Garodnick, Jessica Lappin, & Rosie Mendez;

Community Boards 5, 6, & 8;

Lenox Hill Neighborhood House;

Manhattan Chamber of Commerce;

& New Yorkers for Accessible Health Coverage

For more information, please visit nystateofhealth.ny.gov or email exchange@health.state.ny.us.

You can also visit the Community Service Society’s help site www.cssny.org and click on “Access to Health Care,” or call them at 1-888-614-5400.

Assembly Health Committee and Insurance Committee to hold joint hearing on new Americans and the ACA

On Tuesday, September 17, healthcare and immigration advocates will join Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried, Insurance Committee Chair Kevin Cahill, and Task Force for New Americans Chair Marcos A. Crespo for a hearing on new Americans and the Affordable Care Act.

Under the federal Affordable Care Act, New Yorkers will be able to purchase health insurance through the State’s Health Benefits Exchange beginning October 1, 2013.  Federal health care reform will also affect services and eligibility for patients both on Medicaid and in the private insurance market.  The purpose of this hearing is to discuss the challenges and opportunities new Americans will have as the Affordable Care Act takes effect.

What: Public Hearing on New Americans and the Affordable Care Act

Who:
•    Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried, Insurance Committee Chair Kevin Cahill, and Task Force for New Americans Chair Marcos A. Crespo;
•    Immigrant community advocates; and
•    Health care and insurance plan representatives.
Where: 250 Broadway, 19th Floor, Manhattan, NY

When: Tuesday, September 17, 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM