Medicaid Redesign Team
At his State of the State address, Governor Cuomo announced the creation of a Medicaid Redesign Team, to develop proposals to control costs in the State's Medicaid program while improving the quality and accessibility of care.
In the proposed budget he announced on Feb. 1, the Governor proposed cutting about 10% of the Medicaid budget.
The Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT) report adopted on Thursday. February 24, contains many good and important plans for controlling Medicaid costs while the protecting quality and accessibility of care. Many of those ideas will require clarifications and changes to make sure they help and not hurt. Some of the proposals, unfortunately, would do harm to safety-net providers and patients. The package also authorizes the Health Commissioner to make further cuts in payments to health care providers and limits on benefits as he deems necessary to cut state Medicaid spending by $2.3 billion.
The recommendations are mainly designed to shift more resources to primary and preventive care and provide more care coordination and management, especially for high-utilizing patients. This is the right direction not only for Medicaid but for the whole health care system.
Governor Cuomo will now incorporate the MRT recommendations into amendments to the proposed state budget, to be submitted to the Legislature on March 3. The Legislature and the Governor will then negotiate the budget before it is due to be adopted by April 1.
As chair of the Assembly Health Committee, I represented the Assembly Majority on the Team. The Medicaid Redesign Team conducted regional public hearings across the State to receive ideas from the public on ways to reduce costs and improve the quality of the Medicaid program.
I abstained from the voting on the final report because the Team was given less than 24 hours to review it before voting. However, after reviewing the proposals, I believe, on the whole, that the final report contains needed reforms that will place our Medicaid system on a path to long term financial sustainability while safeguarding quality health care for New Yorkers in need, the elderly and the disabled.
Remembering Dr. Richard Daines,
Former New York State Health Commissioner
The sudden death of Dr. Richard Daines is a shock and a tragic loss. Commissioner Daines was an exceptional leader and one of the finest Health Commissioners New York has ever had. He was creative, thoughtful, courageous, and passionately committed to public health and quality accessible health care for everyone. It was a privilege and a pleasure to work with him. He had much more to contribute. I will miss him as a good friend and colleague.
Americans are sick of the scandals that plague federal, state, and local government. I believe that a number of measures would make a real difference in New York State. One of them is redistricting reform.
I have signed on as a co-sponsor of the independent redistricting commission bill submitted by Gov. Cuomo and introduced by Speaker Silver. The bill is very similar to one that I had previously supported, which would create a commission with an open public process and fair districting criteria, for determining New York State Assembly, Senate and Congressional districts. The proposed eleven-member commission would have a multi-layered appointment process intended to promote independence and geo-graphical and ethnic diversity of the members. The bill defines a series of criteria that must be followed when drawing the districts.
This week, I joined former New York City Mayor Ed Koch and huge coalition of legislators at a press conference in Albany to call for action on the bill. But the State Senate Majority - who unanimously pledged to support the legislation before the election - have now unanimously refused to support it.
Rally for Women's Health
Across the country, reproductive rights are under attack. This is part of a coordinated attach on education, access to health care, public services, social justice, human rights, workers rights, and other progressive concerns. (Please see the attached column by Bob Herbert from the New York Times, March 1.)
Bills have been introduced at the federal level that would strip important organizations like Planned Parenthood of funding for family planning, sex education, and cancer screenings, because anti-choice legislators believe in imposing their morals on the rest of us.
I was proud to join the rally for Women's Health on February 26 and stand with Planned Parenthood to protect their federal funding. I spoke at this massive rally along with Senator Chuck Schumer; U.S. Representatives Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney; State Senators Liz Krueger, Gustavo Rivera, and Tony Avella; Assembly Members Linda Rosenthal and Charles Lavine; and New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn along with Councilmembers Gale Brewer, Dan Garodnick, Jessica Lappin, and Rosie Mendez.
Government has a number of roles in society; telling a woman what to do with her body is not one of them. I am a sponsor of New York State's Reproductive Health Act, a bill which would update New York State's reproductive health laws and strengthen access to the full range of reproductive services.
Fighting to Protect the Rent Laws
In the first week of the 2011 legislative session, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver spoke out powerfully - on behalf of me and other Assembly Majority members - in support of strengthening and extending rent protections. A comprehensive bill to carry out that agenda (A.2674-A), including repeal of vacancy decontrol, is now on the Assembly floor awaiting a vote. I am one of the many co-sponsors.
Strong rent laws are necessary to preserve af-fordable housing, enable people to remain in their homes, and promote stable, diverse communities. Without strong rent laws, a landlord can refuse to renew a tenant's lease, or insist on an unlimited rent increase. Strong rent laws are extraordinarily important to protecting the communities I represent. I support extending rent protections to "market rate" tenants, so they can also be protected in their homes.
In 2011, the state law that authorizes Rent Stabi-lization will end unless it is renewed by the Legislature. The Assembly will easily pass a bill to renew the law. But the State Senate majority has always been a serious obstacle. Additionally, we must enact laws to reform Rent Control. Most of New York City's remaining Rent Controlled tenants are elderly, and are routinely subjected to greater rent increases their Rent Stabilized neighbors. I believe they should have the same or very similar rent protections as their Rent Stabilized neighbors.
When Speaker Silver gave his introductory remarks before Gov. Cuomo delivered the State of the State address, Silver singled out strengthening and extending the rent laws as one of the Assembly's top priorities.
He also pointed out the connection between pro-posals to impose limits on local property tax increases (a major issue outside New York City) and legislation to strengthen and extend rent protection. "In a day and age when we're talking about giving people the ability to live in their homes and not be priced out of their homes, we should not forget people who have rent protections," Silver said. "I just think the philosophy behind the tax cap is the same as the philosophy behind rent regulation."
It is all too rare for a statewide leader to speak out so strongly for tenants and affordable housing.
Wishing Connie Fishman,
former President of the Hudson River Park Trust,
Good Luck in Her New Job
Connie Fishman work with the Hudson River Park dates back to 1995 when she was a mayoral aide. I worked closely with Connie starting back then, as she was integral to the City's active partnership and supportive role in the drafting of the landmark legislation that created the Hudson River Park and the Hudson River Park Trust, the city/state authority charged with developing and running the five-mile riverfront park.
After 11 years with the Trust (she served as the first Executive Vice-President of the Hudson River Park Trust from 1999 until 2003, and then as President and CEO until last month), she is leaving to become the Senior Vice President for Real Estate for the YMCA of Greater New York.
Under Connie's watch, the world-class park is now about 80% completed, an amazing feat in a time of limited resources, with the completion of the majority of the Tribeca portion; most of the Greenwich Village portion; and in Community District 4, Chelsea Waterside Park and Cove, Piers 64, 66, 76, 84, 86 and the Intrepid.
While she will be missed by all who have worked with her, we are lucky that Noreen Doyle, the Trust's Executive Vice President since 2004 (and also staff from 1994 through 2001) will be the Acting President until a new one is found.
Health Committee Update
As Chair of the Assembly Committee on Health, it is my job to oversee the consideration of health policy legislation in the Assembly. Here are some of the bills the committee passed in February. For more information on a particular bill, please contact the sponsor listed after the description. For the text of a bill, and information on its status, please visit: http://public.leginfo.state.ny.us/menuf.cgi.
Adult Home Deaths and Felonies - Reporting - Requires faster reporting of any death, attempted suicide or felony in an adult home. The adult home would report to the Department of Health and the police within 24 hours of discovery (current law is 48 hours). (A.565, Gottfried)
Addressing Medical Errors - Requires health care professionals to participate fully in hospital quality assurance reviews of bad outcomes. The confidentiality protections of those internal reviews would apply to practitioners even if they are sued, to make sure all facts are brought forward (A.590, Gottfried)
Disclosure of Medical Error - Requires a health care provider to tell patients about medical errors that cause, or are likely to cause, harm to the patient. (A.655, Gottfried)
Proper Handling of Drug Samples - Establishes record keeping and safety standards for the handling of drug samples in health care practitioner offices, to reduce the risk of dispensing outdated, expired, improperly stored, or adulterated drugs that can cause adverse drug reactions. (A.806, Gottfried)
Managed Care Patients' Rights - Assures that a patient who is being treated for a terminal illness can still have access to the health care practitioner who is treating him/her even if the practitioner leaves the patient's health plan network (A.1808, Dinowitz)
Environmental Health Tracking System - Authorizes the Department of Health to establish an environmental health tracking system to gather environmental data and correlate such findings with disease data. The Departments of Environmental Conservation and Labor, and the SUNY Schools of Public Health at Albany and Buffalo would provide consultation assistance. (A.2018, Bing)
Patient Transition Demonstration Program - Establishes the Transition Authorization Panel demonstration program in certain hospitals. The panel would make determinations about transferring a patient from a hospital to post-acute care for patients who lack decision-making capacity and have no one to make decisions on their behalf. (A.2473, Canestrari)
Health Care Provider Collective Negotiation with Managed Care Plans - Allows doctors and other health care providers stand up to managed care plans by forming organizations to negotiate collectively with health plans. Negotiations could cover rates of payment, procedures for approving coverage of services, and other terms and conditions. (A.2474, Canestrari)
Investigating Female Genital Mutilation - Requires the Department of Health and the Office of Child and Family Services to publish an annual report on find-ings and recommendations concerning female genital mutilation. (A.2478, Clark)
TCE Contamination Remediation - Maximum indoor air contaminant levels for Trichloroethylene (TCE) to be set by the Dept. of Health. These standards would be used to guide Dept. of Environmental Conservation remediation programs. (A.3121, Lupardo)
Lymphedema and Lymphatic Diseases Research Funding - Creates the lymphedema and lymphatic diseases research grants program and research fund. (A.3394, Maisel)
Anti-Kickback Conflict-of-Interest Law Reform - Federal and New York state laws prohibit kick-backs and other arrangements in which one health care provider benefits financially from referring a patient to another provider. The bill provides that if an arrangement would be allowed under the Federal law, it would also be allowed under the New York law unless the Public Health and Health Planning Council rules otherwise. (A.3551, Gottfried)
"Medical Home" Primary Care - Helping to raise primary care providers to "medical home" standards is a key goal of health care reform. Medicaid is moving towards supporting "medical home" models of care. A state-promoted regional demonstration project in the Adirondacks is getting all health plans to pay primary care providers to support medical home services (including care coordination, after-hours access, and use of electronic health records). This bill would promote similar public-private programs statewide. (A.3637, Gottfried)
Improving Day Care Air Quality - Requires air quality and ventilation standards for day care centers. Bars day care centers from being built near environmentally hazardous sites. (A.3764, Englebright)
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