Month: June 2016


Suffolk Opens Youth Shelter to Meet Increasing Need


The Hope for Youth family services organization opened an emergency youth shelter on Tuesday morning in Suffolk County to help address the growing number of runaway and homeless children on Long Island.  According to the state’s Office of Children and Family Services, there are over 2,400 runaway and homeless children on Long Island, with most of them from Suffolk. For the past 2 years, the only shelter serving all of Long Island’s homeless children has been a 12-bed shelter called Nassau Haven.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone was on hand to cut the ribbon and offered these words.

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“This first shelter is important… it is going to help kids in crisis, young people who are the responsibility of us all, to stabilize and hopefully deal with the issues that led them out of there homes in the first place… This home represents our effort as a community to say, ‘We take responsibility for our young people and we’re going to work to address the issues… not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s the smart thing to do.’” Bellone further added, “If you take a look at the home and you go inside, it really is a home. It really feels like a home for these kids.”

Read the full press release here.


Report: Homeless Shelters and Homelessness in NYS


New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released a report this week on Homelessness in New York State after conducting reviews of homeless shelters in many New York counties- Suffolk and Nassau included. Below is the statement from the Comptroller and link to this report.
Homelessness is a growing problem affecting communities in virtually every corner of New York State.

Despite our best efforts, there continue to be run-down—and sometimes even squalid—shelters that pose a real danger to the health and safety of families and individuals that have nowhere else to go.Working with the comptrollers from Albany, Dutchess, Nassau, Onondaga, Suffolk and Ulster counties, we conducted an independent review of homeless shelters across New York, visiting 200 emergency shelters and 187 hotel/motels.

One in five of those were in poor condition. Shelters contained mold, unsanitary restrooms and vermin. Many had fire safety issues such as a lack of smoke or carbon monoxide detectors. In others we found unlockable doors and crumbling staircases.

It is clear that greater action is needed to ensure that all homeless shelter facilities provide safe accommodations for some of New York’s most vulnerable residents. Our work on this important issue continues with more audits and reports to come.

We need to start fixing these problems immediately.

Read my report and recommendations, Homeless Shelters and Homelessness in New York State, at: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/audits/allaudits/093016/16d3.pdf


House Republicans Unveil Healthcare Plan


House Republicans recently released their long awaited 37 page white paper entitled “A Better Way,” laying out the initial framework for their plan to repeal and replace the federal health law. The proposal lacks crucial details and almost any mention of costs and the effect it will have on the estimated 20 million people who have signed up for insurance since the start of the ACA.

The plan starts with the repeal of the ACA and its requirements and taxes, but also would likley eliminate tax credits for small businesses, bring back the Medicare donut hole, bring back cost sharing for preventive care and decrease funding for community health centers. It would then put back some of its most popular elements: Allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ health plan to age 26; banning insurers from charging people with pre-existing health problems higher premiums; and forbidding insurers from dropping coverage if a policyholder gets sick. The plan only provides protections for consumers with pre-existing conditions if they maintain continuous coverage, putting many consumers at risk for high medical costs. The Republican plan offers a compensation: high-risk pools that sell insurance only to people with very expensive medical needs. Such pools already exist, and they work extremely badly, in large part because providing insurance to people with very high medical expenses is, well, expensive

The plan also repeals all health insurance exchanges and marketplaces where consumers currently buy insurance and receive government tax credits to assist with premium costs. Instead, everyone buying policies in the individual market would receive tax credits. Older people could be charged as much as 5 times more than younger adults for insurance.

The plan would also get rid of most of the coverage requirements and the coverage expansion under the Medicaid program for the poor, so states could make them more or less generous than they are currently. It would also limit funding and states could opt for either a per-person cap or a block grant. This would likely only increase the already stark differences in coverage from state to state.

It also includes long-held Republican proposals such as allowing consumers to buy health insurance across state lines, expanding health savings accounts, reforming medical liability rules; capping medical malpractice lawsuit awards; and raising premiums for older consumers to reduce rates for younger adults.

 


New York Legislative Wrap-Up


Last week we wrote about key issues still on the table in the waning days of the legislative session.  Lawmakers worked into the wee hours of Saturday morning and below is an update on where those key issues stand now:

Ethics: The agreement would strip state pensions from public officials convicted of corruption which requires a change to New York’s Constitution that would have to be approved by voters. The proposed amendment will be voted on again next year before it can go to voters for approval. The agreement also strengthens prohibitions on political campaigns’ ability to coordinate with independent expenditure committees; changes disclosure rules to require political consultants to identify clients and expands reporting requirements to cover smaller lobbying efforts.

Heroin: The Senate and Assembly passed a package of bills introduced by Cuomo to address the scourge of heroin abuse and opioid deaths in New York. The package would make about a dozen changes in state law and regulations. including limiting the supply of opioids that can be prescribed to patient; prohibiting insurers from requiring prior authorization for heroin treatment; and allowing families to get a three-day, involuntary hold for addicted loved ones in treatment facilities.  Patients can also now go for 14 days of treatment instead of only 7 without prior approval from their health insurance carrier.

Fantasy sports – A bill legalizing online daily fantasy sports was approved by the Assembly and Senate and now awaits the Governor’s signature.

“Brunch” bill – The bill will enable restaurants to sell alcohol at 10 a.m. on Sundays to accommodate brunches, ending a century-old blue law tradition. The deal also allows restaurants to get up to 12 waivers a year to sell booze at 8 a.m. on Sundays in areas outside New York City.

Lead testing for water – A bill was passed that would require the state departments of health and education to set testing and safety standards for public school tap water and require schools to report the results to the state.
The effort would be largely funded by the state through its school building aid formula.

Other notable legislation:

Safety Net Hospitals: the bill changes the definition of safety net hospitals so that an enhanced Medicaid rate will be available to those hospitals where at least half the patients are on Medicaid or are uninsured.

Step Therapy: The bill changes so-called ”fail first” protocols that health insurers use when it comes to prescription medications. Under ”fail first” a patient is supposed try several attempts at responding to a formulary or prescribed medication approved by an insurer before moving on to try what could a costlier drug. The bill, which is awaiting the Governor’s signature, creates a clear appeals process for doctors who feel that ”fail first” isn’t helping their patients.

 


Research Shows Increase in SNAP Leads to Better Nutrition


A new study conducted by economists Patricia M. Anderson of Dartmouth College and Kristin F. Butcher of Wellesley College finds that a $30-per-person increase in monthly SNAP benefits would not only increase low-income households’ spending on food but also improve the nutritional quality of their diets. Among the findings of the report:

  • An additional $30 per person of monthly SNAP benefits raises food spending by $19.48 per person a month among SNAP recipients
  • The increase in benefits would increase consumption of nutritious foods such as fruits and vegetables and lean protein such as fish and chicken
  • The increase in benefits would decrease consumption of fast food and time spent shopping and preparing meals would increase

Current SNAP benefit amounts, which average about $1.40 per person per meal, are based on the cost of the Thrifty Food Plan (TFP), a low-cost but nutritionally adequate diet established by the Agriculture Department. However, the purchasing power of the TFP has not been increased since the 1970’s and fails to account for the difference in food costs across the United States.  The TFP also assumes households have unlimited time to prepare meals and adequate access to stores with competitive prices- which is not realistic for many low-income communities, especially those on Long Island which may lack public transportation and big brand stores with a wide variety of foods. This study’s finding that the bulk of a household’s additional resources resulting from a SNAP increase would go to food purchases highlights the significant constraints on these households’ food budgets. In addition, the finding that the increase in SNAP benefits would go toward purchasing and preparing more nutritious foods is supported by recent research linking long term health and education outcomes with children accessing SNAP benefits.


NY Comptroller: Majority of Contracts with Not-For-Profit Orgs. Approved Late


Human service providers rely on contracts to deliver essential services but according to a report recently released by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, state agencies were late 61 percent of the time in approving contracts with not-for-profit providers (NFPs) last year. Half of all agencies reporting approved contracts late as often as 90 to 100 percent of the time.  In 2015, the state paid $129,824 in interest payments for these late contracts. There was some improvement from 2014 to 2015 as late contracts did decrease from 77 percent in 2014 to 61 percent in 2015, and interest paid on late contracts also decreased during the same time period.

The agencies with the highest number of late contracts in 2015 were the Office of Children & Family Services, the Department of Health and the Office of Temporary Disability Assistance. In addition, some agencies were late 100 percent of the time, including the Education Department, the Department for Economic Development and the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities

New York’s Prompt Contracting Law, enacted in 1991, was implemented to prevent payment delays that could impair services to New York’s most vulnerable citizens. The law requires agencies to process contracts within 150 to 180 days. A 2007 amendment requires the Comptroller to report annually on whether agencies meet the time frame and reasons for delay, with recommendations to improve timely contracting.

“The state relies on nonprofit human services providers to deliver essential programs that contribute directly to the health, safety and productivity of its residents,” said Michelle Jackson, Associate Director and General Counsel, Human Services Council of New York. “But 25 years after the adoption of the Prompt Contracting Law, New York is still executing six out of every ten human service contracts late. We applaud Comptroller DiNapoli for drawing attention to this issue […].”

Click here for Comptroller’s full report