Assembly Passes New York Health Act Single Payer Bill
Today, the New York State Assembly passed the "New York Health Act" universal health care bill (A. 4738-A/S. 4840-A) by a wide margin for the fourth year in a row. The legislation, introduced by Senator Gustavo Rivera and me, would establish "improved Medicare for all" health insurance coverage in New York State by providing universal, comprehensive health care to all New Yorkers without premiums, co-pays, deductibles, or limited provider networks. It has 31 co-sponsors in the State Senate, just one vote shy of an outright majority.
Taking insurance companies out of the picture would bring New Yorkers net savings of $45 billion a year, by eliminating insurance industry administrative costs and profit and the billions of dollars in administrative costs incurred by health care providers, employers, and patients to fight with insurance companies. New York Health would also be able to negotiate much lower prices with drug companies. Because health insurance costs incurred by businesses can fluctuate wildly - upward - a single-payer system would also guarantee greater cost predictability.
Universal, complete health coverage through a single-payer "improved Medicare for all" system would cover everyone while removing financial barriers to care with a progressive, broad-based public funding system based on ability to pay. As documented in a study by University of Massachusetts-Amherst economist Gerald Friedman, the net savings to New Yorkers every year would be $45 billion, achieved by lowering the costs of private health insurance administration and of health care providers spend fighting with dozens of different insurers - total administrative costs that today make up 20% to 25% of the American health care dollar. New York Health would also achieve savings by negotiating prices for drugs and medical devices, and save businesses the time and money they spend reviewing, selecting, and administering employee health benefits. New Yorkers would save billions they now spend on deductibles, co-pays, and out-of-network charges.
New Yorkers deserve better than the current health insurance "marketplace." We should be able to go to the doctor when we need to, without worrying whether we can afford it. We should choose our doctors and hospitals without worrying about network restrictions. We deserve health coverage for all of us, paid for based on our ability to pay, not what the market will bear.
People say a single-payer system makes perfect sense, but "it could never happen." The Assembly's action and the growing support among the public and in the State Senate are changing that conversation.
IMPROVED MEDICARE FOR ALL: Today I spoke on behalf of the New York Health Act, a bill I'm sponsoring in the Assembly to establish "improved Medicare for all" single-payer universal health care coverage in New York. It passed the Assembly by a wide margin for the fourth year in a row.
Assembly Hearing on Surrogates
In May, the Assembly Judiciary and Health Committees held a joint hearing in Lower Manhattan on "compensated gestational carrier surrogacy" agreements in which an embryo created through in vitro fertilization results in the birth of a child not biologically related to the woman who carries and gives birth to the baby (a "surrogate"). This is now illegal in New York, although many states allow it.
As Chair of the Assembly Committee on Health, I co-chaired the hearing along with my colleague Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz of the Bronx, Chair of the Judiciary Committee.
Compensated gestational surrogacy has been banned in New York since 1992. ("Traditional" surrogacy -pregnancy by artificial insemination using the mother's own egg, resulting in a child genetically related to the mother -- is legal in New York.)
The hearing examined the shift away from traditional surrogacy toward the now more prevalent practice of gestational surrogacy. With many cultural, medical, scientific, and societal changes having occurred since New York's 1992 ban took effect - in particular, the advent of marriage equality for same-sex couples throughout the U.S. - New York law now lags behind many other states. Yifat Shaltiel, an attorney and Co-Chair of the Reproductive Health Committee of the New York Women's Bar Association, testified at the hearing that New York's law is the most "restrictive and punitive" in the country, since it bars all gestational carrier contracts made in New York, and effectively makes it illegal for a woman who agrees to carry a child for another person or couple to be compensated in any manner.
HEARING ON SURROGATES: In May, I co-chaired a hearing on surrogate parenting for compensation, which is now illegal in New York. To my right are Assembly Member Amy Paulin, Assembly sponsor of the Child-Parent Security Act to legalize it, and Assembly Judiciary Committee Chair Jeffrey Dinowitz.
The hearing focused on the Child-Parent Security Act (A. 6959), introduced by Assembly Member Amy Paulin of Westchester County and State Senator Brad Hoylman of Manhattan, which would overturn the ban on compensated surrogacy in New York. I cosponsor the bill.
It's Time to "Fast Forward" Better Subway and Bus Service
In May, Andy Byford, the new President of the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA), announced "Fast Forward," a sweeping new program to improve subway and bus service. I support the plan and will work for its enactment - and its full funding.
The plan, which is estimated to cost about $19 billion, will focus on key priorities to improve mass transit, including:
- Speeding up the implementation of new subway signals to replace the current outdated signaling system, which is a principal cause of subway delays. Under Fast Forward, the new system would be installed on five key subway lines within the plan's first five years (in our Assembly District, it would be installed on the A/C/E, 4/5/6, F/M, and R subway lines within the plan's first five years; the 1/2/3 lines would have it installed in the five-year period after that). Under Fast Forward, most of the system's subway lines would have the new signal system implemented within the plan's first ten years, a vast improvement over the 40-year timeline previously envisioned for full installation;
- A redesign and overhaul of the bus network. The Fast Forward plan includes the purchase of 2,800 new buses, including 200 electric buses as well as a reevaluation and redesign of the entire bus route network, with both goals to be achieved in the plan's first five years; and
- Increasing accessibility for the mobility-impaired throughout the system. The Fast Forward plan would speed up the timeline for adding elevators and other infrastructure to make more subway stations meet standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), with at least 50 more stations becoming fully ADA-compliant within the plan's first five years.
The "City" transit system is actually run by the MTA, a State entity controlled by the Governor, not the Mayor. Considering how much the transit system is tied to life and work in New York, I believe the Mayor should have a significant voice in planning and carrying out the plan.
After many years of neglect and under-funding of New York City's mass transit net-work, our subway and bus network has reached a crisis point. The Fast Forward plan is a bold and ambitious initiative to bring New York City's subways and buses into the 21st century, and it deserves our strong support.
Fighting for Affordability for Rent-Regulated Tenants
The New York City Rent Guidelines Board (RGB), which establishes rent adjustments for the approximately one million rent-regulated dwelling units in New York City, is holding a series of public hearings leading up to its final vote on June 26 to determine the rent increases it will authorize for lease renewals taking effect between October 1, 2018 and September 30, 2019.
Unfortunately, in their preliminary votes, the RGB members vote to approve a range of rent increases, recommending that one-year leases increase between 0.75% and 2.75% and that two-year leases increase between 1.75% and 3.75 percent.
I have signed on to a letter to the RGB by Assembly Member Harvey Epstein and other Assembly members, urging the RGB to vote for a rent freeze, as they did in 2015 and 2016. We said that "landlords of typically sized rent-stabilized buildings… have earned an average net operating income of $312,176 in the last year of available data… nearly five times the average annual income of a small business in New York City," while rent-stabilized tenants are confronting a decrease in real wages and a rent increase will place low-income New Yorkers - who comprise a majority of those living in rent-regulated apartments - in even more precarious economic circumstances.
The next public hearing of the RGB in Manhattan, at which testimony by members of the public will be heard, will take place on Tuesday, June 19, from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in the basement of the Great Hall at Cooper Union at 7 East 3rd Street. On Tuesday, June 26 at 7:00 p.m. at Cooper Union, the RGB will hold its last public meeting of the year, where it will take its final vote on rent increases.
Assembly Passes Bills To Support New Yorkers With Disabilities
On Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day in Albany, May 30, the Assembly passed several bills to help improve the lives of New Yorkers with disabilities. Included in the package of legislation were:
- A.2546 (sponsored by Assembly Member Barbara Lifton), which protects the rights of people with disabilities by waiving the State's sovereign immunity from the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, and the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, as they apply to the protection of State employees;
- A.10706 (sponsored by Assembly Member James Skoufis), which would re-establish the Office of the Advocate for People with Disabilities to advocate on behalf of persons with disabilities and ensure their ability to exercise the rights accorded to all citizens of New York state, including the opportunity to live independent lives in their local communities;
- A.7283 (sponsored by Assembly Member Erik Dilan) to provide stronger protections to persons with disabilities from discrimination in housing, including the right to own a service animal;
- A.10201 (introduced by Assembly Member James Skoufis), which would require high-rise building owners to establish and maintain an emergency evacuation plan for occupants and visitors with disabilities;
- A.6865 (Assembly Member David Weprin), which offers aid to local governments to maintain a confidential list of persons of all ages with disabilities in their jurisdictions who may require special assistance for evacuation and shelter during a disaster, with inclusion on the confidential list offered as a voluntary option;
- A.5931-A (Assembly Member Phil Ramos), which offers support to veterans with service-related disabilities by establishing a New York State Interagency Coordinating Council for Service-Disabled Veterans;
- A.1369-A (Assembly Member Michael Cusick), which would provide a tax credit to small businesses that employ people with disabilities;
- A.10604 (Assembly Member John T. McDonald), which would require the Health Commissioner to maintain specific reimbursement and billing procedures within Medicaid to ensure that the needs of patients with disabilities are met; and
- A.5333-A (Assembly Member David Weprin) and A. 10668 (Assembly Member Charles Lavine), which would provide tax credits to homeowners who make their homes more accessible to persons with disabilities and to owners of new or retrofitted residential buildings that are either designed or adapted to serve as possible housing for persons with disabilities.
Sat., June 16: Fire Department Open Houses
The New York City Fire Department (FDNY) invites New Yorkers to visit FDNY Open Houses on Saturday, June 16. Firefighters, Paramedics and EMTs will be educating the public about fire and life safety, conducting demonstrations, sharing the Department's storied history, and offering tours of FDNY apparatus (engines, ladders and ambulances).
Thanks to generous support from the FDNY Foundation, members will be distributing free smoke/carbon monoxide alarms, fire safety coloring books, fire helmets for children and educational material promoting fire and life safety tips. This event is open to any member of the public.
Here are locations and times for FDNY Open Houses on Saturday, June 16 in or near Assembly District 75:
- Rescue 1, 530 W. 43rd St. between 10th and 11th Aves., 11 a.m. - 1 p.m.
- Engine 3, Ladder 12, 150 W. 19th St. be-tween Sixth & Seventh Aves, 11 a.m. - 1 p.m.
- Engine 26, 220 W. 37th St. between Seventh & Eighth Aves., 11 a.m. - 1 p.m.
- Engine 34/Ladder 21, 440 W. 38th St. between Ninth & Tenth Aves., 1 - 3 p.m.
- Engine 16/Ladder 7, 234 E. 29th St. between Second & Third Aves., 1 - 3 p.m.
- Engine 65, 33 W. 43rd St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves., 1 - 3 p.m.
- Engine 54/Ladder 4, 782 Eighth Ave. be-tween 47th & 48th Sts., 1 - 3 p.m.
- EMS 7, 512 W. 23rd St. between Tenth & Eleventh Aves., 1 - 3 p.m.
- Engine 14, 14 E. 18th St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves., 1 - 3 p.m.
Locations and hours for other locations can be found on the FDNY website at http://www1.nyc.gov/site/fdny/index.page.
Sun., June 17: Free Pet Adoptions at Union Square
Animal Care Centers of New York City (ACC) is bringing its Mobile Adoption Center back to Union Square at 860 Broadway at E. 17th Street on Saturday, June 16th, from 12:00 noon to 4:00 p.m. Wonderful cats, dogs, and rabbits are available for adoption!
ACC is New York City's only open-admissions animal welfare organization, and takes in more than 30,000 animals every year. Upcoming events are also listed at http://nycacc.org/Events.htm
Get Your Reduced-Fare Metrocard at an MTA Bus or Van
The MTA offers MetroCard-related services throughout New York City through mobile buses and vans. Buses provide a full range of services, including applying for or refilling a Reduced-Fare MetroCard, buying or refilling a regular MetroCard, or getting answers to a MetroCard-related question. Vans sell Unlimited Ride MetroCards and Pay-Per-Ride MetroCards, and they refill MetroCards and Reduced-Fare MetroCards. Buses and vans will be in my district on the following dates and locations:
- June 21, 1:30 - 3:30 p.m., 28th St. & 2nd Ave.
- July 5, 1:30 - 3:30 p.m., 28th St. & 2nd Ave.
- Chelsea at 23rd St. & 9th Ave. 2nd & 4th Thurs., 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.
- Hudson Guild Service Center, 119 9th Ave. at 18th St., 2nd Mon, 9:30 - 11:30 a.m.
- Union Square between 14th & 15th Sts., 2nd Tues., 8:00 - 10:00 a.m.
The full mobile MetroCard schedule is available at: http://mta.info/metrocard/mms.htm.
Please note that MetroCard buses and vans do not take credit cards.
NEW CLINIC IN CHELSEA: On June 1, I helped cut the ribbon for the new Institute for Family Health clinic in Chelsea at 230 West 17th Street, the Institute's 32nd health clinic in the metropolitan area. (L-r: Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney; Dr. Neil Calman, Executive Director of the Institute; and on my left State Senator Brad Hoylman and NYS Health Commissioner Howard Zucker.)
Summer Meals Program for Children Begins June 27th
The NYC Department of Education's Summer Meals Program offers free meals to all children ages 18 and under at hundreds of public schools, community pool centers, and other locations around the city. This year, the program begins on June 27, the day after the end of the school year. No registration, documentation, or proof of identification is required to receive a free breakfast or lunch.
The Summer Meals Program takes place on weekdays from Wednesday, June 27, to Friday, August 31 (except for July 4th and August 21st). Although the hours may vary in each location, breakfast is usually provided from 8:00 a.m. to 9:15 a.m., and lunch from 11:00 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. Each building hosting a Summer Meals Program site will feature posters outside indicating the hours specific to that site.
For additional information on feeding locations, please visit: http://www.schoolfoodnyc.org/resources/Summer2018.pdf.
This list will be updated every Friday until the start of the Summer Meals Program, when the updates will be daily and the site search will be active.
214 West 29th Street
New York, NY 10001
Albany, NY 12248