Ethics reform, a property-tax cap and gay marriage are getting a lot of attention in Albany, but dozens of consumer-rights and health-care groups are asking lawmakers to focus on legislation that is necessary to implement the federal health-care law in New York. Earlier today, 85 groups released a letter they sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos that urged them to move forward before the end of the legislative session June 20.
Under the federal health-care reform law, all Americans need to have health-care coverage (with some exceptions) by January 2014. In order to help the uninsured and small businesses obtain health insurance, states have to set up exchanges, essentially marketplaces where people could go to obtain information and sign up for coverage. If states don’t do that, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will do it for them. There are about 2.7 million uninsured New Yorkers.
The health-care advocates said there is an urgent need for action, and there are only 16 more session days scheduled before June 20. If legislation doesn’t get passed, New York could lose out of millions of dollars available to help states create exchanges. There are myriad complex health policy, insurance and governance issues that have to be decided by either the Legislature or the exchange, said Jessica Wisneski, legislative director of Citizen Action of New York and chairwoman of the Health Care for All New York Steering Committee.
“There’s a huge amount of work to do,” she said.
Most states have passed legislation to set up exchanges or have legislation or an official process to adopt legislation pending, advocates said. New York is one of 13 states that doesn’t have any legislation pending.
Yesterday, the state Insurance Department announced a series of public hearings on setting up the exchange. The hearings are in Albany on Monday, Syracuse on Tuesday, New York City on Wednesday and Rochester on Thursday. The New York City hearing is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday at Baruch College, Vertical Campus Conference Center, East 25th Street between Lexington and 3rd avenues. It will be webcast on the state’s Health Care Reform website. The Rochester hearing will run from 2-5:30 p.m. at Monroe Community College, Brighton Campus, Building 4 Theater, 1000 East Henrietta Road. There will be a call-in forum May 23 from 12:30-3:30 p.m. Registration is required and can be done on the website.
This is from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: