Category district issues

Testimony on the New York Health Act before the New York City Council

Testifying before the NYC Council in support of its resolution endorsing the New York Health Act, December 6, 2018

Testimony of Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried

in Support of the New York Health Act

Public Hearing: City Council Committee on Health

New York City Hall

December 6, 2018

I am Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried.  I chair the Assembly Health Committee and I am the introducer, along with Senator Gustavo Rivera, of the New York Health Act, to create single-payer health coverage for every New Yorker.  I appreciate the Council Health Committee holding this hearing on Speaker Corey Johnson’s resolution endorsing the bill.  I support the resolution.

In both houses of the State Legislature, we now have solid majorities who have co-sponsored, voted for, or campaigned supporting the NY Health Act.  And Governor Cuomo supports single-payer health coverage, although he says he has questions about whether it can be done at the state level.

Every New Yorker should have access to the health care they need, without financial obstacles or hardship.  No one says they disagree with that.  And the New York Health Act is the only proposal that can achieve that goal.

In NY State, we spend $300 billion – federal, state, and non-governmental – on health coverage.  Nationally, we spend far more than any industrial democracy as a percentage of GDP.  But 18 cents of the insurance premium dollar goes for insurance company bureaucracy and profit.  Our doctors and hospitals spend twice what Canadian doctors and hospitals do on administrative costs, because they have to fight with insurance companies.  We pay exorbitant prescription drug prices because no one has the bargaining leverage to negotiate effectively with drug companies.

Just about every New Yorker – patients, employees, employers, and taxpayers – is burdened by a combination of rising premiums, skyrocketing deductibles, co-pays, restrictive provider networks, out-of-network charges, coverage gaps, and unjustified denials of coverage.  I know I am, and I bet everyone in this room is.

And those financial burdens are not based on ability to pay.  The premium, the deductibles – the insurance company doesn’t care if you’re a multi-millionaire CEO or a receptionist.

In a given year, a third of households with insurance has someone go without needed health care because they can’t afford it – and usually for a serious condition.

The number one cause of personal bankruptcy is health care — even for those who have commercial health coverage.

We’ve put control of our health care in the hands of unaccountable insurance company bureaucrats. Nobody wants insurance company bureaucrats deciding what doctor you or your family can see and when.

The health insurance system means massive cost increases for most everyone and better health care for hardly anyone. It’s a disaster.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The NY Health Act will save billions of dollars for patients, employees, employers, health care providers and taxpayers – while providing complete health coverage to every New Yorker.

Everyone would be able to receive any service or product covered by any of the following:  NY Medicaid, Medicare, state insurance law mandates, and the current state public employee benefit, plus anything the plan decides to add.

And there will be no premiums, no deductibles, no co-pays, no restricted provider network, and no out-of-network charges.

We’ll actually save billions of dollars because we get rid of insurance company bureaucracy and profit, doctors and hospitals will be able to slash their administrative costs, and New York Health will be able to negotiate much lower drug prices by bargaining for 20 million patients.

And this lower cost will be shared fairly, based on ability to pay.  NY Health will be funded by broad-based progressively graduate taxes.

There will be one tax on payroll.  At least 80% of it must be paid by the employer.

There will be a similar tax on currently taxable “unearned” income – like capital gains and dividends.

Because of the savings and the progressively graduated tax mechanism, 90% or more of New Yorkers will spend less and have more in their pocket.

Pumping this money back into our economy will create 200,000 new jobs in New York.

And there will be money to completely cover everyone, and make sure doctors, hospitals and other providers are paid fairly – and today, most of the time, they are not.

The vast majority of our hospitals get most of their revenue from Medicaid, Medicare, and uncompensated care pools – none of which fully cover the cost of care.  The NY Health Act requires full funding for all hospital care, and hospitals will save billions in reduced administrative costs.

Here are 3 basic numbers:  The savings from insurance company bureaucracy and profit, provider administrative costs, and drug prices will total $55 billion.  The increased spending for covering everyone; eliminating deductibles, co-pays and out-of-network charges; and paying providers more fairly will cost $26 billion.  So the net savings to New Yorkers is $29 billion.

The way our society deals with long-term care – meaning home health care and nursing home care – for the elderly and people with disabilities is a moral outrage.  NY’s Medicaid does a much better job than other states.  But today, New Yorkers spend $11 billion a year out-of-pocket for long-term care.  And family members – usually women – provide unpaid home care worth $19 billion.

In January, Senator Rivera and I will be announcing that the NY Health Act will cover long-term care.

Now, that will use up $19 billion of the net savings.  But it means no NY family will have to wipe out lifetime savings, and no family member will have to give up a career, to provide long-term care for a loved one.  That’s profoundly important.

How much tax revenue will we need?  With the net savings, we’ll need $129 billion from the NY Health taxes.  When we add home care and nursing home care, we’ll need $159 billion.

How do we know the NY Health program will treat us – and our doctors and hospitals – fairly?  Two ways.

First, the legislation explicitly requires that provider payments be reasonable, related to the cost of providing the care, and assure an adequate supply of the care.  No coverage today has that guarantee.

Second, we’ll all be in the same boat; rich and poor.  Every New Yorker – every voter – will benefit from the program.  And every voter will have a stake in making sure our elected officials keep it as good as possible.

Remember where we started:  Every New Yorker should have access to needed health care, without financial obstacles or hardship.  We’re not there today.  The NY Health Act will get us there.  If anyone doesn’t like the NY Health Act, they should either put on the table another plan that will get us there, or admit that they’re OK with depriving millions of New Yorkers of health care or family financial stability.

Concerns have been raised by many of NY City’s municipal labor unions.  They are justifiably proud of the good deal they have won for their members over the years.  Good scope of coverage.  The City pays the full premium.  And the contract says that if there are savings in the health benefit, the savings go into a stabilization fund to pay for salaries and benefits.  As they remind us: at the bargaining table they have given up wages and benefits to protect this deal.

Under NY Health, by law, every municipal employee, like every New Yorker, would have an even broader scope of benefits, and without deductibles, co-pays and restricted provider networks and out-of-network charges.

Under the bill now, collective bargaining could continue to have the City pick up the whole tab for the payroll tax and pass on the savings to the stabilization fund.  But Sen. Rivera and I have offered to add bill language that by law would require the City to do that, without the need to bargain for it.

Our parents didn’t raise us to screw workers.  Period.  Sen. Rivera and I are determined to make sure that labor’s concerns are protected under the NY Health Act.  We are continuing the dialogue with them.

Thank you for letting me testify.

Testimony Before NYC Human Resources Administration: Expand & Strengthen Tenants’ Right to Counsel

Testifying on behalf of tenants’ right to counsel before the NYC Human Resources Agency, November 15, 2018

Testimony by Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried Before the NYC Human Resources Administration’s Office of Civil Justice

                                        Public Hearing on the                                                      Universal Access to Legal Services Program for Tenants Facing Eviction

                                Thursday, November 15, 2018

My name is Richard N. Gottfried.  I represent the 75th Assembly District in Manhattan, which includes the neighborhoods of Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, Midtown, and part of the Upper West Side and Murray Hill.  Thank you for this opportunity to testify about the Right to Counsel program.

Right to Counsel (RTC) or Universal Access to Legal Counsel (UATC) in Housing Court became a New York City law in 2017.  With this law, some, but not all, low-income tenants have the right to have a lawyer provided to them if they are sued in Housing Court by their landlord.  Before Right to Counsel was enacted, landlords tried to evict over 230,000 tenants a year.  Most of those tenants were low-income people, and predominantly people of color and immigrants.

The program has quickly made a real difference in the lives of many people.  Since the implementation of Right to Counsel, evictions are down 24 percent from 2014; filings are down 10% from 2014; and shelter entries from evictions are down. The program contributes to preserving affordable housing and stable communities by keeping people out of court and out of homeless shelters.  But there are too many people who cannot access the program because of the income level requirement.  The next step is to expand and strengthen the successful Right to Counsel program.

City Council Members Mark Levine, Vanessa Gibson and Diana Ayala have introduced legislation, Intro 1104-2018,  to increase the income threshold of 200% of the federal poverty level to 400% and to expand the types of cases covered by RTC to include administrative hearings such as those in HPD, and the NYS HCR (Homes and Community Renewal) agency, as well as for cases that are appealed and a portion that land in state Supreme Court.  These would be important steps ahead.

More must be done to increase outreach and tenant awareness.  The City needs to finance efforts by various community organizations to educate tenants about when they are entitled to legal representation.

It continues to be a challenge to get the word out to tenants that the right to counsel in Housing Court exists and how to find out if they are eligible and where to go.  As part of the RTC implementation, New York City’s Tenant Support Unit knocks on doors to advise tenants at risk of eviction that they are entitled to a lawyer.  More tenant outreach and education is needed and can best be provided by neighborhood-based groups with a history of tenant organizing, as well as the Tenant Support Unit. Increased funding to neighborhood-based groups already doing education and outreach would contribute to the effectiveness of the right to counsel program.

Several public awareness efforts, if funded by the City, would help tenants learn of the new right.  Efforts such as subway ads, tele-town halls, mass mailings, email and social media, and a hotline are all possible ways to increase access to the program

After only a year, Right to Counsel has proven its effectiveness.  It should be expanded and strengthened.

 

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Chelsea Now: Food and Fun in Chelsea at the National Night Out Against Crime

BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC, August 8

The temperature, like the chicken being grilled, was sizzling — but the mood was buoyant at the annual National Night Out Against Crime on Tues., Aug. 7.

The event — a way for the police and the community to come together — was held locally by Chelsea’s 10th Precinct, and took place at the Fulton Houses on W. 17th St., between Ninth and 10th Aves.

“I think it’s great for the community,” said Jennifer Beeks, 35, who has been living at the Fulton Houses for three years. “It gives the children a chance not to be fearful of the police.”

Chelsea Now: Spar and the City: CRDC Sees Cynthia Nixon, Cuomo Proxy Trade Jabs

By Donathan Salkaln, May 23

Since March 19’s announcement of her run for governor, Cynthia Nixon, a lifelong NYC activist and star of the hit series “Sex and the City,” has forged a surprisingly effective campaign. While garnering support, she has also pushed Governor Andrew Cuomo to consider many important left-wing issues — including April’s trifecta of trying to get a Democratic majority in the NY State Senate, a ban on plastic bags, and the legalizing of recreational marijuana. To many, Nixon has become a superhero firefly in lighting heat under the incumbent, “Mr. Big.”

On May 17, Nixon brought her battle for governorship to Chelsea by seeking an endorsement from the Chelsea Reform Democratic Club (CRDC). The bout was witnessed by a crowd who packed the Hudson Guild’s John Lovejoy Elliott Center (441 W. 26th St.), and there was much buzz before Nixon’s arrival. The CRDC is celebrating its 60th year of political activism that has helped shape Chelsea to be one of the most compassionate, diverse, and exciting places in the world — and its members take endorsement voting very seriously. Nixon faced off against New York State Assemblymember Richard Gottfried (Assembly District 75), representing the corner of Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Chelsea Now: Vacancy Tax Would Fine Landlords Who Let Storefronts Languish

By Dusica Malesevic, May 1

As the specter of empty storefronts continues to haunt the city, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s floating of a possible penalty for landlords who leave properties vacant for long periods of time has been greeted by elected officials and advocates as an encouraging sign.

“I’m heartened [by] City Hall’s attention to the issue and the mayor’s personal interest,” State Senator Brad Hoylman said in a phone interview late last week.

On March 30, de Blasio told WNYC, “I am very interested… in fighting for a vacancy fee or vacancy tax which would penalize landlords who leave their storefronts vacant for long periods of time in neighborhoods because they are looking for some top-dollar rent, but they blight neighborhoods by doing it…”

He added, “That’s something we could get done through Albany.”

A vacancy tax falls under the state legislature’s purview.

Gay City News: De Blasio Moves on Safer Consumption Spaces to Curb Overdoses

By Nathan Riley, May 4

BY NATHAN RILEY | A multi-year push in New York City to offer drug users a safe place for consuming their drugs seems destined for success after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his support for “overdose prevention centers.”

Public health advocates voiced enthusiasm as the news spread on May 3 that the administration had reached out to Dr. Howard Zucker, the state health commissioner, for a go-ahead to open four Safer Consumption Spaces in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Brooklyn.

NY Post: Not everyone is happy that restaurants are going cashless

By Lisa Fickensher, April 24

Cash is no longer king.

A growing number of restaurants across the country — like test locations for Starbucks and Shake Shack and the entire Sweetgreen, Dos Toros and Tender Greens chains — are no longer accepting cash.

It’s all plastic all the time.

The stores believe not dealing with cash helps move the line of customers faster.

Most people pay for their meals with a credit card anyway, the chains argue. Plus, counting the cash at the end of the day is a waste of time.

But the war on cash has sparked a backlash.

State lawmakers, a civil rights group, the National Retail Federation and a company servicing ATMs are all pushing back against the trend, claiming that refusing the greenback — on which the US Treasury writes “This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private” — is simply un-American.

“I think Americans ought to have a right to pay with cash,” New York state Assemblyman Richard Gottfried told The Post. The Manhattan lawmaker circulated a memo on Tuesday to his colleagues proposing legislation requiring New York businesses to accept cash.

Press Release: Penn Station Double Outrage as Governor Jams Legislature and Usurps City Government

3/302018
For Immediate Release

Penn Station Double Outrage as Governor Jams Legislature and Usurps City Government

Statement by Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried

     “After the Assembly leadership made clear to Governor Cuomo that we would not agree to his effort to take control of the area around Penn Station, the Governor has jammed his Penn Station bill into the final giant budget bill delivered to the Legislature on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. This extraordinarily hostile gesture puts the Legislature in a position of accepting his plan or shutting down government.

“It is wrong for the Governor to try to take over urban planning, traffic management and real estate development in New York City. That’s what this bill is aimed at. A project in the middle of midtown that is this large, complex, and important must be a collaborative effort and vision, including the Governor as well as the Mayor, along with area residents and businesses, the community board, and the area’s elected officials.

“The area’s elected officials — City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Representative Jerry Nadler, State Senator Brad Hoylman and I – along with Mayor Bill de Blasio all opposed this last-minute power grab against the City’s elected local government. None of this overwhelming local opposition mattered to Governor Cuomo.

“The closing days of the state budget process is not the time to do this. This proposal, which did not appear in the Governor’s original budget bill in January, has nothing whatsoever to do with the State’s fiscal plan and should be discussed outside of the budget process. I thank Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie for his strong support for my insistence on a full community input process on this issue.”

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Daily News: Assembly members demand Manhattan DA reverse policy letting NYPD prosecute activists’ summons cases

By Shayna Jacobs, 3/6/18

Seven lawmakers are pushing for the Manhattan district attorney to withdraw from a controversial policy in which the NYPD was given authority to prosecute activists in summons cases, the Daily News has learned.

Assemblyman Dan Quart (D-Manhattan) and colleagues are urging DA Cy Vance Jr. to rescind his delegation of violations to the NYPD’s Legal Bureau — a policy that allows department lawyers to play prosecutor in summons court.

The collective, in a sharply worded letter to be delivered Tuesday, is asking Vance to “rescind” the permission he gave to the department in a February 2016 agreement.

It is the subject of a lawsuit following the 2016 protest arrests of two Black Lives Matter activists.

The police department sought the access to the low-level court proceedings — that are not even usually handled by a prosecutor — as a way to try to minimize potential future exposure in lawsuits, The News previously reported.

Vance has “made himself and his office into an appendage for insulating the NYPD from civil liability,” Quart charged Monday.

The letter is endorsed by assembly members Inez Dickens, Daniel O’Donnell, Rebecca Seawright, Robert Rodriguez and Richard Gottfried; Sen. Liz Krueger and City Councilmember Carlina Rivera.

The Villager: Gansevoort garage demo is in gear

By Lincoln Anderson, December 14

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | As anyone who is passing by Gansevoort Peninsula on the Hudson River bikeway or lives within sight of it knows, the hulking former garbage-truck garage there clearly is being demolished.

What is less clear is whether the peninsula, slated to be redeveloped into a park, will eventually also be home to a marine transfer station for recyclable municipal garbage. And that question could impact the process of designing a park there.