Progress, like healing, can come incrementally.
The state Assembly recently passed the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act, which would establish minimum staffing ratios for certain types of hospital units and nursing homes, based on patient needs and a nurse's shift assignments. Sponsored by Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, D-Middletown, who is also a registered nurse, the bill would create a safer workplace and greatly increase patient safety and the quality of health care. NYSUT and other health care unions rally together in support of the legislation each year.
NYSUT, in concert with the union's Health Care Professionals Council, chaired by Board member Anne Goldman, RN and a UFT vice president, will continue to champion the bill and look for a Senate sponsor. The council comprises representatives of the union's 16,000 professional registered nurses and other health care professionals who work in public and private health care settings. The annual Health Care Professionals Lobby Day is May 10 in Albany.
"We appreciate the positive changes in the governor's spending proposal," said NYSUT Vice President Paul Pecorale, who oversees the union's health care initiatives. These include additional support for breast and prostate cancer screenings, for AIDS/HIV services and for family planning grants. However, he said, "we oppose any cuts that adversely affect the health care professional workforce and its ability to provide direct quality care."
NYSUT's advocacy on health care also represents more than 160,000 retirees, most of whom use the state's health care system. For example, in testimony submitted to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee on Health and Medicaid, the union strongly urged lawmakers to reject the executive budget proposal's plan to freeze the reimbursement of Medicare Part B premiums at $104.90 for all NYSHIP retirees with Medicare primary insurance. Additionally, the plan would eliminate the reimbursement of the Income Related Monthly Adjustment Amount (IRMAA) for certain retirees, including those from school districts and local governments that participate in NYSHIP.
"This freeze would result in additional out-of-pocket costs for retirees and, in effect, reduce their health care benefits," said Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta, who submitted NYSUT's testimony. "We strongly urge lawmakers to maintain the current language." NYSUT also urges the Legislature to reject the governor's proposal to amend retiree NYSHIP premiums for state employees retiring after Oct. 1, 2016. The premium cost would be based on years of service and those with fewer years would pay more.
The executive budget proposal also would cut the state subsidy to SUNY hospitals by $18.6 million — 21 percent. NYSUT wants the state to commit $59 million in additional funding to these hospitals, which would restore funding to the 2010–11 level of $128 million.
You can read NYSUT's budget testimony on health care at nysut.org.