Tag health committee

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


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.

Assembly Health Committee Year in Review

Assembly Health Committee Year-End Update

The Assembly Health Committee wrapped up 2017 with 34 bills signed into law and 19 vetoed, including four which were vetoed with specific agreement for further administrative actions. Some bills were signed or vetoed based on agreements to enact changes in 2018. (A governor often raises concerns and wants changes in a bill after it has been passed by the Legislature. This usually happens after the Legislature has adjourned for the year. It is not widely known to the public, but in New York it is common for a governor to insist that the leaders of the Legislature agree to changes in a bill as a condition of the governor signing it. If the legislative leaders and the bill’s sponsors agree, the governor then signs the bill and the Legislature enacts the changes early in the following year.)

The Assembly Health Committee also held public hearings including:

  • Home care workforce adequacy.
  • Adult home oversight and funding.
  • Health care services in state prisons and local jails.
  • Nursing home quality of care and enforcement.
  • Water quality budget implementation.
  • Immigrant access to healthcare.

Below are summaries of bills acted on by the Governor as well as the public hearings.

Press Advisory – 9/19 Adult Home Hearing

Contact:                                                     For Immediate Release

Mischa Sogut                                              September 18, 2017

(518) 455-4941


Ensuring Adult Home Safety & Quality:  
Assembly Public Hearing Will Review Quality, Oversight,
Funding of Adult Homes

On Tuesday, September 19, the Assembly Committees on Health, Aging, and Social Services will hold a public hearing in New York City on safety and quality of adult homes (“adult care facilities”)  A second will be held in Syracuse on September 28 at 11 AM at the John J. Hughes State Office Building.

Adult homes house both aging individuals and those with complex medical or mental health needs, providing supportive services for independent living.  They offer services less medical than nursing homes or enhanced assisted living, but more so than senior living.  Adult homes are funded largely by Medicaid and the New York State Supplement Program (SSP), which provides financial support to the aged and disabled.  Advocates are concerned that the current SSP rate is too low, shortchanging facilities and affecting quality of care.

The hearing will examine the availability and quality of adult home services, including the impact of increased funding for such programs.  Witnesses are expected to include adult home residents, advocates, and operators.


NYS Assembly public hearing on adult homes


-NYS Assembly Committees on Health, Aging, and Social Services
-Adult home residents
-Resident advocates including self-advocates
-Adult home operators

Assembly Hearing Room
19th Floor
250 Broadway

New York, NY 10007

The hearing will also be webcast live at:



Tuesday, September 19
11 AM


Press release – Assembly Passes Reproductive Health Act

Protecting Reproductive Health Care:
Assembly Passes Reproductive Health Act

Statement by Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried

     Today, the Assembly Health Committee reported and the Assembly overwhelmingly passed the Reproductive Health Act (RHA), A.1748, introduced by Assembly Member Deborah Glick.  The RHA eliminates outdated language in New York State law; guarantees a woman’s right to choose; and ensures constitutionally protected access to safe, legal abortion.  It also takes New York’s abortion law out of the Penal Law and puts it in the Public Health Law where it belongs.  Reproductive freedom is fundamental and must be secured.

The U.S. Supreme Court will very likely soon have a majority of judges who oppose protecting reproductive choice.  This, and Republican control of Congress and the White House, makes it more important than ever for New York to pass the Reproductive Health Act.

As chair of the Assembly Health Committee, a founding member of the New York State Bipartisan Pro-Choice Legislative Caucus, and someone who has been active with NARAL since 1969, protecting and strengthening reproductive rights and access to care are among my highest priorities.  New York’s own landmark law on abortion – enacted three years before Roe v. Wade decision – provides most, but not all, the protections of Roe.

The RHA adds a provision to the Public Health Law saying that any appropriately licensed health care practitioner such as a physician assistant, nurse practitioner, or professional midwife may perform an abortion up to 24 weeks of pregnancy, or if there is an absence of fetal viability, or if the abortion is necessary to protect the life or health of the woman.  In contrast, the current abortion provision in the state Penal Law says only a physician may perform an abortion and only allows an abortion after 24 weeks when necessary to protect the life of the woman.  The RHA would strengthen New York’s law to fully cover all the provisions of the Roe v. Wade decision, and all applicable laws and regulations governing health care in New York will also apply.

While we in New York have been working to protect women’s health, state legislatures and governors across the country have been working to pass unconstitutional anti-choice bills.  New York is a pro-choice state – with a history of pro-choice governors, legislators and other elected officials – because we have so many active pro-choice advocates.  As Washington threatens reproductive health care rights and access, it is more critical than ever that we organize and fight to protect every woman’s reproductive rights.


NY Post: State admits staff knew Hoosick Falls water was dangerous

By Kirstan Conley, September 7

ALBANY — Under intense grilling at a legislative hearing, state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker admitted Wednesday he and his staff knew for years that a chemical in the water in Hoosick Falls was a danger to residents, but didn’t sound the alarm.

“Yes,” Zucker relented when asked repeatedly by Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) if his agency was aware of information “it took [resident] Mike Hickey five minutes on Google to find.”

Gottfried pointed to a fact sheet issued by the Health Department in December 2015 stating residents of the upstate village had nothing to fear.

Politico: Hoosick Falls hearing turns into 5-hour grilling for state officials

By Scott Waldman, September 7

ALBANY— Wednesday’s hearing on Hoosick Falls and water pollution issues turned into a five-hour grilling of state health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker and other officials who organized the state’s response to the crisis.

The hearings were intended to take a broad look at water quality issues across the state. And while they touched on Hudson River water quality, road salt runoff in waterways and fracking waste, they largely centered on the state’s response to Hoosick Falls, the Rensselaer County village where water was found to be contaminated by an industrial chemical, perflurooctanoic acid, or PFOA.

Capital Pressroom (Audio) – Previewing Legislative Water Hearings

Interview on Capital Pressroom with Susan Arbetter, posted by Alyssa Plock, September 7.

Capital Tonight (Video) re: Legislative Water Hearings

Interview with Liz Benjamin, Capital Tonight, September 6.

Syracuse Post-Standard: Physician-assisted suicide takes step forward in NY

By Jim Mulder, May 24

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Efforts to legalize physician-assisted suicide in New York took a step forward Monday when the Assembly Health Committee for the first time approved a bill that would let dying patients get medication to end their lives.

The committee approved the legislation by a 14-11 vote, setting the stage for a possible vote by the Assembly and Senate next year.

Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan, chair of the Assembly health committee, said several assisted suicide bills have been introduced over the past 25 years, but this was the first one to come before the committee. He said he was “pleasantly surprised” the committee approved it.

“More than ever people are focused on the concept that we each ought to be in control of our bodies and our lives,” Gottfried said. “I think that basic proposition combined with real compassion for people who are suffering made the difference.”

PRESS RELEASE – Aid-in-Dying Bill Approved by Assembly Health Committee

Contact:                                                For Immediate Release
Mischa Sogut, (518) 455-4941                5/23/16

Statement by Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried

  “Today, the New York State Assembly Health Committee for the first time approved aid-in-dying legislation. A. 10059 (Paulin)/S. 7579 (Savino) would authorize terminally ill adult patients who have mental capacity to make health care decisions to request medication for self-administration for the purpose of ending his or her own life.

“This bill is about patient autonomy and dignity.  Thanks to the work of advocates, health care practitioners, and my colleagues Assembly Members Amy Paulin and Linda Rosenthal and Senator Diane Savino, we have a bill that meets all the moral and legal standards we look to in reviewing legislation in the Health Committee. I am a co-sponsor of the bill.

“For well over a century, New York law has recognized that an adult patient who has capacity to make health care decisions has the right to refuse medical treatment. So for over a century, a patient who wants to cease life-sustaining treatment and receive pain management and palliative care – or no care – has had that right.

“Every New Yorker should have the fundamental right to choose or reject life-sustaining treatment, or medication that will enable them to end his or her pain and suffering.

“We must assure patients that they will have control over their end-of-life decisions, including access to appropriate pain management and palliative care. This critical patient autonomy should extend to the right to choose medically-assisted aid-in-dying.”