End of Legislative Session Highlights: NYSNA Scores Important Victories

The state legislature ended the 2016 session in the early morning hours of June 19, and we saw some significant victories for nurses and patients in the legislation that passed:

Safe Staffing Ratios Legislation Passed the Assembly!

The legislation, known as the Safe Staffing for Quality Patient Care Act (A8580/S782 – Gunther/Hannon) was our top priority in this session. This legislation, which would require minimum nurse to patient ratios in acute care hospital and nursing home settings, had in recent years failed to come to a floor vote in either house of the legislature.

This year, NYSNA nurses and our allies in other unions and patient advocacy groups engaged in an intense campaign called the NY Campaign for Patient Safety, including our two large scale lobby days and rallies in Albany, passage of support resolutions in numerous county and town legislatures, in-district visits, mini-lobby days and other coordinated efforts.

This determined campaign by our nurses and allies paid off – the staffing ratios bill passed out of the last committee and came to a floor vote in the Assembly on June 14th. Safe Staffing passed the Assembly by an overwhelming margin – 108-32!

Now that the bill has passed in the Assembly, we hope that it will change the dynamic in the state Senate (where we now have a majority of members sponsoring the bill). Passage of the bill in the Assembly will force Senate Majority Leader Flanagan to deal seriously with our bill when the legislature reconvenes in January.

Enhanced Safety Net Hospital Bill Passes and heads to Governor for signature:

This legislation (A9476/S6948 – Gottfried/Hannon) would allow for higher Medicaid reimbursements for public hospitals, vital access or sole community hospitals, and private hospitals with the highest rates of Medicaid and uninsured patients. It passed in both houses of the legislature unanimously and now awaits signature by the Governor to become law.

Vital public and private safety-net hospitals bear the highest and most disproportionate burden of caring for low-income Medicaid and uninsured patients, but are not fairly reimbursed for their efforts.

The financial health of the safety-net hospital system in not just a matter of critical importance to the communities and patients that they serve, but also serves as the backbone of the entire health care system. The losses borne by the safety-net hospitals are directly related to the viability of the rest of the hospital system. If our safety-net system collapses, it will cause a financial and patient care crisis that will have severe ripple effects throughout the entire system.

That is why NYSNA strongly supports this legislation and urges the Governor to sign it into law.

Other Legislative Highlights

  • Retail Clinics Operated Under For-Profit Corporate Control (A1411 – Paulin): This legislation would allow for-profit corporations to directly own and operate health clinics in commercial spaces. NYSNA strongly opposes any expansion of corporate for-profit healthcare in New York, which negatively impacts quality and access to care, increases costs and fraud, and disrupts existing health care service networks. We helped to fight off this legislation and related efforts to allow corporate ownership of hospitals in past sessions. The legislation did not come to a vote in this session.
  • Advanced Home Health Aides (A101707/S8119 – Glick/LaValle): This legislation would allow advanced home health aides to engage in specified tasks under the direction and supervision of an RN in the home setting and make it easier for the disabled and those with chronic conditions to avoid institutionalization and remain in their communities. NYSNA supported the legislation, which would set strict standards for RN delegation and supervision and would require minimum RN staffing standards. The legislation was passed by the legislature and awaits signature.
  • BSN in 10 (A3945/S2145 – Morelle/Flanagan): This legislation would require all future nurses to have a BSN degree within 10 years of licensure, though it grandfathers all currently licensed nurses and those enrolled in nursing programs. NYSNA favors the goal of the legislation, but has questions about the impact of the bill on minority and low income people entering the profession. The legislation passed the Assembly but did not move in the Senate.
  • Health Professional Licensing Proceedings (A10532/S779 – Glick/Lavalle): This bill would tighten the licensure process for health professionals (including RNs) by requiring criminal back ground checks, and creating processes to make it easier to remove the license of those who pose a threat to patient care. NYSNA supports the goals of the legislation, but raised concerns about the overly broad and undefined standards contained in the bill. The bill passed in the Senate but did not reach the floor in the Assembly. NYSNA will work with the legislature to ensure that any legislation is revised to prevent abuses or unfair penalization of licensed professionals.
  • Kings County Healthcare Transparency (A9515/S7112 – Brennan/Golden): This legislation requires public disclosure of information and public hearings regarding the ongoing $700 million program to develop plans to restructure hospital systems in Brooklyn. The legislation passed in both houses and awaits the Governor’s signature. NYSNA supported this legislation and will actively participate in efforts to protect the integrity of hospital services in Brooklyn.
  • Local Impact in Community Healthcare (A6417/S2500 – Simon/Squadron): This bill would require the DOH to conduct community impact analyses and to hold public hearings prior to approving the closure of a hospital. Current law incredibly does not require any transparency or analysis of community health needs when a hospital seeks permission to close its doors. The legislation passed in the Assembly, but was not voted on in the Senate. NYSNA strongly supports public input and strict requirement prior to approval of hospital closures and will work to pass stringent legislation in the next session.
  • Midwifery Birthing Centers (A446/S4325 – Gottfried/Hannon): NYSNA supported this measure, which will expand the practice of midwifery and offer greater access to midwifery services to expectant mothers. This legislation, which passed both houses of the legislature and awaits the Governor’s signature, authorizes licensed midwives to operate birthing centers that would be subject to DOH regulations.