As March begins, the New York State Legislature once again faces an April 1 constitutional deadline for passage of the budget for Fiscal Year 2019–2020. Since Democrats now control the State Senate and State Assembly, the annual battle of the budget could be less contentious than usual.
In January, Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a budget of $175 billion. The governor noted, “New York is the number one donor state in the nation. We send Washington $35.6 billion more than we get in return … The FY 2020 budget starts by closing the $3.1 billion deficit, and for the ninth consecutive time, limiting State spending growth to two percent — a restraint unparalleled in state history.”
Bea Grause, RN, JD, President of the Healthcare Association of New York State, commends Gov. Cuomo for a thoughtful and deliberative approach on key issues facing the healthcare sector.
“The governor has proposed a commission to consider how to achieve universal access to health care in New York. We believe that studying this complex issue is the right approach. … Finally, we look forward to working with the governor on continued investment in the healthcare system in 2019. The state has made significant progress in recent years — climbing in the national healthcare rankings — and we want to continue and expand that progress.”
The Medical Society of the State of New York (MSSNY) has scheduled its annual Albany visitation on March 6 for representatives of all county and specialty medical societies. Thomas J. Madejeski, MD, President of MSSNY, has expressed his strong concerns “regarding legalization of recreational marijuana and potential severe consequences with regards to expanded use on our fellow citizens individually and as a society. There are a number of financial considerations that continue to push for expansion of marijuana use.”
MSSNY, the New York State Association of County Health Officials and the New York State Sheriff’s Association are among those organizations that have voiced their concern about legalization of recreational marijuana.
Dr. Madejeski points out that there are nearly 40 newly elected members of the State Legislature, which makes the Albany visitation particularly important this year.
On Jan. 22, both houses overwhelmingly approved the Reproductive Health Act, a top priority of the Governor and fellow Democrats in both chambers. After the bill’s passage, Gov. Cuomo issued an order that the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, the Kosciuszko Bridge and the Alfred E. Smith Building in Albany be lit in pink that night to celebrate the signing of the new law. Conservatives and the New York State Catholic Conference opposed the legislation.
The state medical society highlighted several positive items in the governor’s budget. These included:
- Increasing the legal age to buy tobacco and e-cigarettes
- Banning certain flavored liquids that target youth and ending sale of tobacco and e-cigarette products in pharmacies
- Regulating the activities of pharmaceutical benefit managers
- Providing health insurance protection for people with a mental health condition (e.g., substance use disorder or autism)
- Outlawing pre-authorization for medication-assisted treatment to combat opioid addiction
- Extending the Excess Medical Malpractice Insurance Program for another policy year
- Reducing the current 9 percent interest rate for court judgments
- Creation of a New York State maternal mortality board, including confidentiality protections
- Requiring Medicaid to pay for services under the National Diabetes Prevention Program for those diagnosed with prediabetes
MSSNY urges members to call upon state lawmakers to turn down proposed unfair cuts to physicians who treat patients covered by both Medicare and Medicaid. The society also is troubled by proposals that would add prior authorization burdens for care rendered to Medicaid patients. It advocates for comprehensive reforms to reduce the high cost of medical liability insurance.
Gerald “Jerry” N. Hoffman was Chief Executive Officer of the Onondaga County Medical Society from 1981 until his retirement on Jan. 31, 2014. He is co-author of two books, “Medical Malpractice Insurance, A Legislators View,” and “The History of Local Medical Care: Celebrating Physicians of Past and Present, 1806-2006.”