Tag Affordable Care Act

City & State NY: Health Care Officials Offer Diagnoses for New York’s Funding Challenges – Richard Gottfried, Mitchell Katz and Carlina Rivera Weigh In

(mayamaya/Shutterstock)

By City & State | February 27, 2018

Thanks to a flu season that’s one of the worst in recent memory, it has been a tough winter to stay healthy. Influenza hospitalizations are up and thousands have died. The flu vaccine has proven to be less effective than in years past, and public health experts say the disease may have yet to reach its peak. The spread of the virus is likely to continue for weeks.

It has also been a tough winter for New York policymakers and government officials who rely on Washington for funding. While congressional Republicans failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, they’ve taken incremental steps to undermine the law, such as eliminating the individual mandate. The federal government has also reduced funding for safety net hospitals and for the ACA’s Basic Health Program, both of which play a major role in New York. Some Republicans in Washington still hope to scale back Medicaid and Medicare as well.

So we checked in with a few of New York’s top health care officials to hear their diagnosis of the situation – and how to remedy it.

Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (Jeff Coltin)

RICHARD GOTTFRIED, Chairman, Assembly Health Committee

C&S: What are your health legislative priorities this year?

RG: Our first order of business is, of course, dealing with health care cuts in the budget. This is not the worst year, not the worst budget we’ve seen, nor the best. But there are still serious cuts in health programs and restrictions in Medicaid that I and the Assembly will be trying to reverse. Beyond that, not necessarily in any particular order, passing the Reproductive Health Act in the Assembly again, and hopefully helping to advance it in the state Senate. A particular budget agenda item which we hope to deal with in the budget, and if not we will continue to try to deal with after the budget, is protecting safety net hospitals. The state’s various aid programs for hospitals are not very well targeted to get money to the hospitals that have the most serious financial need. Next, again in no particular order, is strengthening the medical marijuana program. I will be focusing on three issues there. One is to repeal the list of specific conditions for which medical marijuana can be used. There is no other drug that I know of that the law lists the conditions it can be used for. Secondly, today, only physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants can certify a patient for medical marijuana use. I think it makes sense that any practitioner who, under law today, can prescribe controlled substances ought to be able to certify a patient for medical use of marijuana as long as the treatment for the condition is within that practitioners scope of practice. The third piece deals with the current business model of producing, distributing and retailing, or dispensing, of medical marijuana. Today, all the licenses that have been issued require the registered organization to grow, process, distribute and dispense the product. There is almost no industry where we allow that degree of vertical integration, and certainly no industry where we require it. The next item is the New York Health Act, my single-payer bill. We will, I hope, pass that again in the Assembly as we have in the three years before. And our goal will be to continue to build support for that around that state. The last item is the Medical Aid in Dying bill that would allow an adult patient with decision-making capacity who is dying from a terminal illness to get a prescription for medication that would end their life. I think that legislation is very morally compelling for New York and I hope we can at least get it to the Assembly floor and pass it.

C&S: How would you assess the state of health care in New York based on what you’ve seen?

RG: It’s mixed. We have some of the finest health care providers, some of the finest physicians and hospitals in the country, but millions of New Yorkers still every year go without health care because they can’t afford or they suffer financially to get that care. Many of our nursing homes provide care that is well below national averages and well below standard. Our systems for inspecting nursing homes are really lacking. We need to invest a lot more of our resources into primary and preventive care, which is very difficult to do in a world where health care is controlled by insurance companies.

C&S: You mentioned your single-payer bill you would like to pass through the Assembly again. Why is that the best way forward for New York to go in in terms of health care?

RG: I believe that no New Yorker should go without health care or have to suffer financially to get it. To use the president’s term, that only gets complicated when the system is focused on the care and financing of insurance companies. And as long as our system is rooted in insurance companies, we will be spending tens of billions of dollars on, necessarily, on insurance company and health care provider administrative costs. You will have insurance companies taking thousands of dollars out of families’ pockets for premiums and deductibles and co-pays without any relation to ability to pay. And insurance companies telling us which doctors and hospitals we can go to, and which services they will pay for. To me, that’s no way to run a health care system. And I don’t know any alternative to a single-payer system that can work.

C&S: And you have seen support for that grow since you first introduced it?

RG: Oh, enormous growth and support, particularly in the last several years, because people have seen that while the Affordable Care Act made a lot of improvements, it still leaves us in the hands of the insurance companies with enormous problems. So people who thought maybe reforming the insurance system would do the job, now see that that really still leaves us falling way short. And it’s also clear that whatever health policy comes out of Washington is going to make things worse in New York, whether it’s for insurance or Medicaid or Medicare. So more than ever, people realize that, whether you call it improved Medicare for All, or single-payer, is really the only answer, and that we have really no alternative but to pursue that at the state level because it’s clearly not coming from Washington any time soon. And so we are constantly picking up more community organizations. There are activists all around the state having meetings with their state senators, there are more unions supporting the bill than ever before, so the issue really is moving forward more than I’ve ever seen.

C&S: Do you have any concerns for what is happening on the federal level, such as cuts in spending or other kinds of legislation that might affect health care in New York?

RG: Their efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act will undermine insurance in New York. They are already implementing cuts that are hurting the program called the Essential Plan, which is a subsidized health care program for people whose incomes are a little above Medicaid. And there will be more devastation coming to Medicaid any day now. And their next target will be Medicare. Republicans have had their eye on trashing Medicare since it was enacted in 1965. And that will be coming next. And all of that will be ripping money out of our health care system and putting more burden on out-of-pocket spending by New Yorkers who can’t afford it.

Dr. Mitchell Katz (NYC Health + Hospitals)

MITCHELL KATZ, President and CEO, New York City Health + Hospitals

C&S: What are the problems you’re facing at Health + Hospitals and what are your plans to address them?

MK: I believe, like the nuns, that there’s no mission without a margin. And so while my career has been dedicated to taking care of people who don’t have insurance, I’ve always done that by billing insurance for people who do have insurance, and attracting insured patients to my systems. Currently in Health + Hospitals, in most of our centers, we are still sending away insured patients, not providing the services that are better remunerated. This doesn’t come from a bad place, it’s sort of the history of public hospitals, that public hospitals like ours generally started before Lyndon Johnson’s Medicaid and Medicare in the ’60s when nobody had insurance. And so nobody billed and that was fine. But gradually, public hospital systems have learned how to bill and how to attract and keep paying patients, so there’s a margin to provide the care to the people who don’t have insurance. Health + Hospitals has a long way to go in that area, but this is work I’ve done in two other municipalities, and it’s well-known how to do it. And it’s a lot easier than saving people’s lives in trauma, which I’m proud my system does every day. So if we can revive a pulseless person who’s lost most of the blood volume in their body, surely we can learn how to bill insurance the way other systems do, and we are.

C&S: Could the affordable health care program that you spearheaded in California, Healthy San Francisco, work in New York City?

MK: I think that the model could work. Like a lot of other questions, it comes to participatory democracy. One of the features of Healthy San Francisco was that employers who did not provide insurance for their workers were required to pay into a fund or provide benefits or pay insurance bills. So that’s a political question as to whether or not the city would want to do that. It would have been a lot harder, maybe not impossible, but certainly a lot harder to have had the success we had in San Francisco without the employer spending requirement.

New York City Councilwoman Carlina Rivera (Ali Garber)

CARLINA RIVERA, Chairwoman, New York City Council Hospitals Committee

C&S: What has been your experience so far heading this new Committee on Hospitals?

CR: Well, it’s been educational. It’s definitely been informative as to how nuanced the issues can be. We have two other committees that are tackling issues in the health field, but we’re focused on hospitals. So what I’ve been doing is trying to meet with as many stakeholders, groups, individuals, people who are advocates, people who are retired advocates who worked in hospitals and with patients, and really try to get a broad perspective of what’s going on, how the budget, the deficit is affecting patient care, and how best we can use this committee for oversight, for investigations. But also to push forward legislation that’s going to take care of all New Yorkers. My focus is to really dive deep into Health + Hospitals, but also bring in our private partners. This is a very big network, I say it’s the most important public system in the city, and I want to make sure we’re talking about the underinsured, the insured, the undocumented and all of the people who are so dependent on the system. So again, it’s going to be a focus on the public system, but bring in our private partners as well. And it’s been eye-opening. There are a lot of people working on different campaigns, local, citywide and of course statewide, so I’m trying to, again, meet with as many different people as possible, other elected officials who are chairs of their own committees in their own legislative bodies, and then of course labor and community leaders that do the work.

C&S: Based on some of these meetings that you’ve been having, what is the most pressing issue when it comes to Health + Hospitals?

CR: I would say that would be DSH funds, Disproportionate Share Hospital programs, and that’s the funding to hospitals that treat the poorest New Yorkers. And also the risks from Washington, the threats of cuts to this very important care, these programs, the charity dollars and the way they’re distributed amongst the public and private systems. But when I talked to people, undoubtedly, one of the first things that comes up is DSH. I think it’s also about how are we going to address a billion-dollar deficit and keep 11 major hospitals open? We have the mayor’s commitment that he will keep these facilities open, but how are we going to look at underutilization in terms the spaces in these brick-and-mortar facilities? And how are we going to generate revenue? I had a really great conversation with (President and CEO of Health + Hospitals) Dr. (Mitchell) Katz, along with some of the committee staff here at the Council, just to get a little preview of some of the issues that we’re going to be going over next week. And he has some basic, I think, fundamental outlook on how to make sure we’re getting the reimbursements that we’re not getting, and to implement a more efficient system, and getting paid for the services we’re providing.

C&S: Dr. Katz is also new to Health + Hospitals, and you’re the new head of a new committee. What is that like, to have everyone who’s now trying to tackle this problem be fairly new? Is that detriment or is it good to have a lot of fresh ideas coming in?

CR: I think that’s it, you took the words right out of my mouth. I think it’s great to have fresh ideas. I think it’s good to have someone with a different perspective. He’s coming from tackling a similar issue in another major city. I come from more of the community-based care perspective. My work in Healthy Aging has been working with seniors, with very low-income families in accessing health care and navigating the Affordable Care Act. Though my experience is limited and his is incredibly comprehensive, I’m really excited because it just allows for a clear break from past issues and mismanagement, and I think that’s going to be something that’s going to be important to looking at the health care system in a different lens.

C&S: Was this a chairmanship that you had wanted? And how did you feel when you received it?

CR: Yes, of course. I think I’ve said this before, that I think that making this its own standalone, full committee, it shows the needed urgency for such an important issue. I did mention my interest to the speaker. We’re very aligned when it comes to our beliefs and values and the things we want to achieve in terms of our agenda for the City Council. So we talked a lot about health. We talked about some of the work that he had done, how I wanted to continue that work in terms of the legislation and the policy he put forward, and then bringing my own ideas based on my experience. So this was something I was interested in, and when I was assigned to it, I was very, very excited. I know that I have him for support, I have a great committee staff here and lots of advocates throughout the cities.

City and State: Federal uncertainty keeps New York’s health care agenda in limbo

November 20, 2017

Health care legislation in Albany during the 2018 session will be largely affected by decisions made in Washington. State Sen. Kemp Hannon, chairman of the Senate Health Committee, said the state Legislature would be “very careful” and will be “watching what happens” in Congress this year when deliberating health care issues.

Last week, U.S. Senate Republicans launched another effort to dismantle the Affordable Care Act by including a measure in their sweeping tax reform proposal to eliminate the requirement that Americans buy health insurance or face a fine.

Additionally, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which gives federal aid to provide medical coverage for low-income children, expired on Oct. 1. Nearly 700,000 children in New York state were enrolled in CHIP as of last year, according to Medicaid data.

Gotham Gazette: Amid Health Care Funding Fights, Cuomo Explores Special Session

By Rachel Silberstein, October 12

Governor Andrew Cuomo has been floating the idea of a special legislative session to address federal cuts to the state’s health care programs, as well as other concerns that have developed, since the state budget was agreed to in April.

In that budget, Cuomo pushed to include and won a provision granting him nearly unilateral power to adjust the state’s financial plan mid-year in the event of at least $800 million in federal cuts to the state. In April, the governor said the provision would ensure that “we do not overcommit ourselves financially” and indicated it allowed him to sign off on a budget that did not otherwise account for likely federal cuts. But, it appears as if Cuomo may call lawmakers back to Albany — likely with agreement from the legislative majorities to an agenda — regardless of whether the threshold has been met.

Times-Union: Cuomo signals support for single-payer health care

By Matthew Hamilton, 9/19/17

ALBANY – Gov. Andrew Cuomo signaled support of single-payer health care at both the federal and state levels on Monday as Democrats nationwide rally around the issue.

“I think that would be a good idea,” Cuomo said on WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show” when asked about a federal “Medicare for All” system.

But single-payer may face a roadblock from Republicans who are weighing another effort to repeal the Obama-era Affordable Healthcare Act.

“I’m afraid (the Republicans) come back with health care reform,” the governor added. “I think we’re in the eye of the storm, where it’s apparently quiet right now on health care. I think the back half of the storm is going to come around.”

Single-payer — the concept that everyone chips in to cover “free” health care coverage when someone needs it — recently gained the support of U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and is a point on which Democrats seeking office next year are touting.

Yet while federal legislation is going nowhere in a Republican-controlled Congress, New York Democrats have pushed for a single-payer system on the state level. The Assembly, which is controlled by Democrats, has passed single-payer legislation repeatedly in recent years. The GOP-held state Senate has not taken up the issue.

Cuomo seemed open to single-payer on the state level, assuming that federal health care funding funneled to the state is maintained. He has bemoaned a proposal that would force the state to pick up the county share of Medicaid costs, lest it risk losing federal funding of an equal amount.

“If they were to pass it and it was not incongruous with what the federal government would do to us, I think it’s a very exciting possibility,” Cuomo said. “But I think it’s going to be a federal play. Our funding system basically relies on Medicaid from the feds. If they turn off that valve or slow that valve, there is no way we’re going to be able to make that up in this state no matter what.”

It’s worth noting that the state would have to raise an estimated $91 billion in revenues to fund a state-level single-payer system, according to Assembly sponsor Dick Gottfried, D-New York. According to Gottfried’s bill, any revenue proposal would need to account for ending of local payments for Medicaid.

Cuomo has been mentioned as a potential Democratic candidate for president in 2020, a year when single-payer may be a key issue for a White House run. On the heels of his trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands on Friday to survey hurricane damage, Cuomo was asked on Lehrer’s program if he is taking actions with an eye toward 2020.

“Once you start with this presidential question, whatever you do, you can interpret as ‘he’s doing that because he wants to run for president,'” Cuomo said. “Whatever I do they could say that.”

He added: “The Virgin Islands, I don’t even believe they vote for president. So if you’re running for president, there are a lot of other places to go besides the Virgin Islands — like Florida would probably be where you would have gone.”

Journal-News: ‘Medicare-for-all’ single-payer plans reignited by GOP’s Obamacare rollback

By Barrett Newkirk and David Robinson, June 23

As Republicans push reforms reducing the government’s role in health care, some opponents are emboldened in their support for the opposite approach, one that greatly increases the government-health care link.

Progressive politicians and activists see a future in single-payer health care, the term for a government-run health insurance program that would be available to any American. While a Democratic-backed federal bill has no future in the GOP-led Congress, backers have had more success at the state level.

Capital Pressroom Interview (audio)

On May 16 I joined Susan Arbetter of Capital Pressroom for a conversation about single-payer healthcare and Republican attacks on the Affordable Care Act.  You can find the interview here.

PRESS RELEASE – Assembly to Pass New York Health Act Today

Assembly to Pass New York Health Act Today

Single Payer System Guarantees Health Coverage
for all New Yorkers

(Albany, NY, May 16, 2017) Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried announced the Assembly’s intent to pass the New York Health Act today. The universal “improved Medicare for all” single-payer health plan would cover every New York resident, regardless of wealth, income, age or health status (A.4738, Gottfried/S.4840. Rivera).

“While lawmakers in Washington debate giving tax cuts to the wealthy and cutting funding for health care for those who need it most, the Assembly Majority remains committed to ensuring every New Yorker has access to the care they need and deserve,” said Speaker Heastie. “The Assembly will once again pass this measure, but the recent action taken by Congress to strip more than one million New Yorkers of healthcare has proven it is time for our colleagues in the Senate to act as well.”

Salon: With Obamacare Under GOP Attack, New York Could Fight Back with a Single-Payer Plan

New York may be the first state to escape the Trumpcare threat by offering a single-payer option to all residents

by Amanda Marcotte, Salon, Tuesday, May 9, 2017 08:59 AM EDT

Health care activists (Credit: Getty/Kevin Hagen)

Last week the House of Representatives passed a bill that would repeal the Affordable Care Act, cutting taxes by $1 trillion for the wealthiest Americans and potentially resulting in as many as 24 million people without health insurance by 2026. Senate Republicans are currently working on their own version of the bill, and while it’s expected to be less severe than the House plan, the end result will almost certainly be similar: tax cuts for the rich, with millions of people losing coverage.

Understandably, there’s panic across the country at the prospect of soaring premiums and loss of coverage. But while Democrats in Washington can do little to save health care when Republicans control both Congress and the White House, Democrats who hold power in state capitals can take steps to save local residents from disaster. State governments are free to offer their own health care plans — and one popular option being considered in many blue states is a single-payer, Canadian-style system, sometimes called “Medicare for all.”

New York is probably the state in the country that’s closest to creating a single-payer system, although it’s not alone. The New York Health Act, which would enroll every New Yorker in a state-run insurance program, has passed the New York State Assembly and is two votes short of being passed in the state’s Senate.

Capital Tonight re: Single-Payer and the Affordable Care Act

3/28/17, interview on Capital Tonight regarding single-payer healthcare and updates on the State budget and Federal action on healthcare.  Video here:
http://www.twcnews.com/nys/capital-region/capital-tonight-show/2017/03/28/capital-tonight-032717.html

ABC News 10 (w/ video) – NY Senate Democrats calling for proper healthcare

Nick Perrault, March 9, 2017 (video in link)

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Senate Democrats in New York are calling out Republicans in their chamber for failing to act to ensure all New Yorkers have proper healthcare.

The conference introduced legislation this week they say will protect everyone.

“We are in the midst of experiencing a calamity out of Washington D.C in our country,” Senator Democratic Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris, said.