Roundup on Cuomo Budget: Drug Costs, Minimum Wage, Family Leave

More details are coming out about Governor Cuomo’s budget this week in several areas:

Drug Pricing – A media report by Politico New York this morning discusses how the Governor is looking to force drug prices lower by requiring transparency and reporting on the costs of producing drugs and beginning to look at how to control costs.  Cuomo’s plan requires the Commissioner of Health to develop a list of prescription drugs “for which there is a significant public interest in  ensuring rational pricing by drug manufacturers.  The proposal also requires drug companies to report what they charge other customers including pharmacies and wholesalers.  Consumers, insurers and the health care providers say that prices for new drugs and increases for older ones are unsustainable for the health care system.

Minimum Wage increase for Home care and non profit workers with state contracts – Even though the Governor is proposing to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour for state workers and SUNY employees he is not proposing any funding to cover the costs of raising the minimum wages for employees of not for profits with state contracts in health and human services.  Of course, the minimum wage is phased in to $15.00/hour over several years and the impact this year will be incremental.   Home care agencies and nonprofits in the human services sector are concerned about how they will absorb the added the costs over several years.

Family Leave – The Governor’s budget proposal on family leave was greeted positively by the coalition supporting a family leave program.   The Governor’s proposal is not as robust as the plan the coalition supports that would include a benefit or “replacement wage” of up to 2/3 of the employee’s weekly wage up to a cap of half of the statewide weekly wage.    The Governor’s plan will provide a replacement of only a third of wages, phasing up to 50% of the employee’s wages.

Safe Staffing – The Assembly Health Committee is taking up the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act  (A8580)  on Thursday morning to require safe staffing ratios, an issue that is a top priority of the nurses union and many health, senior and consumer advocacy organizations.  They say that the lack of staffing ratios leads to threats to patient safety when enough staff are not available, forcing some nurses to be responsible for a larger number of patients.

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I have been a senior advocate for most of my career. I was Executive Director of the New York StateWide Senior Action Council and the New York State Alliance for Retired Americans. In 2007-2010 I was the Director of the New York State Office for the Aging

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