March 12, 2014

2014-15 Assembly Budget Establishes Safe Patient Handling Act and Preserves Critical Medicaid Programs
Increases Access to Health Insurance for Low-Income New Yorkers

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Health Committee Chair Assemblyman Richard Gottfried today announced that the 2014-15 Assembly budget proposal funds vital health care programs and research initiatives, including $37 million in support for independent pharmacies to address changes in the current Medicaid pharmacy reimbursement program. It establishes protections for patients and workers through the Safe Patient Handling Act and establishes the New York State Basic Health Plan, as authorized by the federal Affordable Care Act.

"This year's budget increases access to affordable, high quality healthcare for a greater number of New Yorkers, protects patients and healthcare workers and ensures that health care professionals - such as pharmacists - can provide the best possible care for their patients without incurring an unmanageable financial burden," Speaker Silver said. "The measures included in the budget remove worry from the equation and help New Yorkers get the healthcare they deserve."

"The Assembly Majority successfully fought to protect life-saving public health initiatives, increase access to health insurance for all New Yorkers and ensure that the best possible healthcare programs and services are given the resources necessary to better serve the patients in New York who are most in need," said Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried. "Allowing medical use of marijuana under physician supervision and tight regulation is important to thousands of patients with serious debilitating and life-threatening conditions. This year's budget also includes critical cost-saving measures that will ultimately allow healthcare facilities and professionals to function at a more efficient, effective and innovative level."

"The Safe Patient Handling Act will help protect healthcare professionals, allowing them to better care for their patients, which in turn helps improve the health and wellbeing of the patients themselves," Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, sponsor of the Safe Patient Handling Act, said. "Whenever we can take steps to improve the quality of healthcare delivery in New York, we should act swiftly."

Under the state's Medicaid program, recent changes to the state's pharmacy reimbursement programs for prescription drugs have had a negative financial effect on independent pharmacists. This year's one-house fiscal plan allocates an additional $37 million through an increase in the Medicaid dispensing fee to address the impact. Additionally, this year's budget proposes:

To better protect the health and safety of both patients and health care professionals, safe patient handling is, when deemed appropriate, intended to replace manual lifting and moving tasks with assistive devices to properly and safely transfer patients without injury to the patient or the health care worker. Recognizing the importance of such measures, the 2014-15 Assembly budget establishes the Safe Patient Handling Act, which would require healthcare facilities to establish safe patient handling committees that would design a specific program for safe patient handling. The committee would utilize best practices, resources and tools identified by a state workgroup, which would be comprised of healthcare providers, labor professionals and other individuals with expertise in health or occupational safety.

Under the authorization of the federal Affordable Care Act, this year's fiscal plan also establishes a Basic Health Program, which will provide health insurance coverage for individuals between 133 percent and 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). A Basic Health Plan will provide access to affordable health insurance for low-income New Yorkers and will also financially benefit the state, as states that choose to operate a Basic Health Program are eligible to federal funding equivalent to 95 percent of the premium tax credits and cost-sharing assistance that would have been available to those individuals had they enrolled in a plan through the state's health insurance Exchange.

This year's budget proposal also includes a provision to authorize the medicinal use of marijuana. This proposal would authorize the medical use of marijuana for individuals suffering from specified debilitating illnesses as determined by a healthcare practitioner ensuring access to treatment that can improve their lives and health.

The Assembly budget proposal preserves funding for significant health care programs related to HIV/AIDs and STD prevention, maternal and child health, minority and racial disparity health programs and chronic disease prevention and ensures that these valuable programs do not have to compete with each other for funding.

Additional funding is also provided for the following programs and services: