Assembly Health Committee Update: January

The Assembly Committee on Health favorably reported 22 bills at its first meeting of the 2016 session on January 21.

The Committee reported the bill to establish safe staffing requirements in hospitals and nursing homes (A8580, Gunther). The evidence is clear that having enough nurses on staff has a direct impact on the quality of patient care. Research published by the American Medical Association estimates five additional deaths per 1,000 patients in hospitals with an 8-to-1 patient-to-nurse ratio compared to those with just a 4-to-1 ratio. More nurses per patient means fewer deaths and improves patient outcomes. It is well documented that hospitals with better staff ratios have lower rates of problems such as pneu¬monia, shock, and cardiac arrest.

The ratios in the bill are based on academic and evidence-based studies. The Health Department could also set more demanding and specific ratios. California was the first state to mandate nurse staffing ratios and it has seen significant improvements in outcomes for both patients and staff.

For more information on a particular bill, please contact the sponsor listed after the description. For the text of a bill, supporting memorandum, and information on its status, go to:

Genetic Disease Screening and Counseling - Authorizes grants for familial dysautonomia, Canavan's and Tay-Sachs disease screening and counseling. (A126, Dinowitz)

Adult Home Residents Right to Sue - Lets adult home residents go to court for a court-appointed receiver to operate the adult home when the operator has endangered the health, safety, or welfare of the residents. (A154A, Weinstein)

Early Intervention Covered Lives Assessment – Provides funding for Early Intervention services through the “covered lives assessment” paid by health insurance companies, instead of insurance companies considering individual claims. (A273, Paulin)

Health Care Provider Collective Negotiation with Health Plans - Allows doctors and other health care providers to form organizations to negotiate collectively with health plans. Negotiations could cover rates of payment, procedures for approving coverage of services, and other terms and conditions. (A336A, Gottfried)

Hospital Community Advisory Boards - Requires every hospital to have a community advisory board. (A376, Gottfried)

Well Water Education - Requires the Department of Health to prepare educational materials on the importance of testing drinking water wells. Real estate agents would provide the material to buyers of homes served by wells. (A804, Jaffee)

Changes in Hospital Ownership or Control – Hospitals are increasingly merging and forming alliances and networks, and while these changes often have a big impact on a community, they occur with little or no government oversight. This bill would require State DOH and the Public Health and Health Planning Council review and approval for these types of changes. (A841, Gottfried)

Notifying Patients of Hospital Policies on Refusing Treatment - Hospitals are required to disclose to patients policies that may be contrary to a patient's wishes (e.g., relating to withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment). This bill requires the notice to be prior to admission, except in an emergency. (A1003, Rosenthal)

Restoring "Prescriber Prevails" - Restores "prescriber prevails" rules to Medicaid managed care programs. If a Medicaid managed care plan denies prior authorization for a prescription for a particular drug, and the patient's health care professional persists in choosing that drug, the prescription would be covered. (A1174, Rodriguez)

Regulating Retail Clinics – Retail clinics currently exist throughout NY, providing episodic care as an alternative to emergency rooms. However, there is no statutory or regulatory system in place to govern their practice. This bill ensures that all retail clinics be limited to drop-in episodic care and be subject to standards to ensure they provide safe, high quality, integrated health care. With the regulations in place, the bill would allow the retail company to own the clinic under Public Health Law Article 28, as an alternative to leasing space for it. (A1411A, Paulin)

Municipal Ambulance Services - Clarifies the right of a municipality or fire district to establish an ambulance service when it meets Health Department training, staffing, and equipment standards. (A2185, Gottfried)

Health Plans Switching Drugs - Bans health plans from changing a patient's prescription without the prescriber's consent, and bars contracts that limit a physician from referring a patient to an out-of-network provider. (A2210, Gottfried)

Lupus Research Program and Fund – Establishes an advisory council and fund within the Department of Health to make grants to state academic medical centers for lupus research. (A2631, Peoples-Stokes)

Lupus Education and Outreach – Establishes a lupus education and outreach program within the Department of Health to raise public awareness and educate patients and health care professionals. (A3072, Peoples-Stokes)

Community Food Programs - Creates the Community Food Security, Empowerment and Economic Development Program to increase the self-sufficiency of low-income communities in providing for their food needs. (A3086, Cook)

Save Our Sight Program - Establishes the Save Our Sight Program and Fund to educate children on proper vision care. (A4003, Wright)

Protecting Access to Complex Rehabilitation Equipment – Provides for the Health Department to set standards for complex rehabilitation equipment under Medicaid managed care plans. (A5074, McDonald)

Notice of Patients' Rights - Requires hospitals to post notices about patient rights to receive care regardless of immigration status and bars hospitals from inquiring about a patient's immigration status. (A5853, Ortiz)

Impaired Physician Programs – The NY Medical Society’s Committee for Physician Health currently provides treatment and counseling to physicians thought to be suffering from alcoholism, substance abuse, or mental illness. Physicians who provide services in the program have liability protection. However, a recent lower court decision has left doubt as to whether the protections apply to the Medical Society itself. This legislation clarifies that the liability protection applies to the Medical Society. (A7267, Gottfried)

Protecting patient health information - Prohibits emergency service providers from selling patient health information without written consent. (A8226, Braunstein)

Assisted Living Facility Closure Requirements – Increases the amount of time from 90 to 120 days that operators of a for-profit assisted living residence have to submit written notices of closure to DOH to give residents more time to acquire new living accommodations. The notice must include a proposed plan for closure. (A8566A, Simon)

Safe Staffing Levels – Requires the Department of Health to set nurse staffing standards for hospitals and nursing homes, to increase quality of care. (A8580, Gunther)