COVID-19 Update

Shenker Russo and Clark LLP Legislative Update

This week in Albany…

COVID-19 Update

This morning the Governor announced he will further amend his Executive Order to require that all non-essential businesses reduce their workforce by 100%. On Wednesday, he ordered a 50% reduction, followed by announcing a 75% reduction yesterday. However, with the growing number of cases in the state, all non-essential businesses must reduce their workforce by 100% and have employees work from home if at all possible. Any non-essential business that is caught violating the Governor’s Order will be subject to a civil fine and a mandatory closure. For a list of what businesses and services are considered essential, follow this link:

The list of essential businesses may change as the COVID-19 situation evolves. We will continue monitoring it and inform you of any changes that are made. Employees that are unable to work from home while the Governor’s Order is in effect will be considered furloughed, and can apply for unemployment until the Order is lifted. The Governor also announced a 90-day moratorium on evictions of all residential and commercial tenants.

New York State Budget

Despite the COVID-19 situation, State Budget negotiations continue, and the due date is still April 1st. However, after a third Assembly member, who was present at the Capitol on Wednesday, tested positive for Coronavirus, there is growing pressure to complete the budget as soon as possible. While many issues from the Governor’s original proposal have fallen off the table, we will continue to advocate, where appropriate, for your issues while the negotiations are still underway.

MRT II Recommendations

On Thursday, the Medicaid Redesign Team II voted to approve a package to cut $2.5 billion out of the state’s health care system. The approved changes would make it more difficult for people with assets to qualify for Medicaid for home care or nursing home care by requiring a five-year lookback window where any wealth a patient had during that time will be counted against their eligibility for the program. The package also includes the elimination of spousal refusal, which is where a husband or wife can refuse to pay for their partner’s care, thus allowing them to go on a state funded program. To aid in controlling the rise of drug prices, the package removes managed care pharmacy programs and replaces them with fee for service programs. This change would remove pharmacy benefit managers who contribute to the inflation of drug prices.

The most controversial measure was the cut to the reimbursement rate to health care providers for New York’s hospitals. The rate was cut by just under 1%, or around $400 million, and would save a total of $1.6 billion. Once released, the recommendations were met with widespread criticism by professionals in the healthcare community. President of the Health Plan Association criticized the MRT II’s recommendations, saying, “Given the significant impact of the [novel] coronavirus disease is having on all New Yorkers, this is the worst possible time to be adding to the cost of coverage and we are concerned several of the provisions in [Thursday’s] recommendations will increase health care costs for employers, consumers, and union benefit funds without improving the quality of care.” Brian O’Malley, Executive Director of Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Association of NYS responded to the recommendations, saying, “You don’t cut spending from the fire department when the whole town is burning and we should not cut Medicaid as our healthcare system is on the verge of collapse.”

Now that the MRT II has approved these recommendations and sent them to the Governor, they will now be negotiated by the Legislature and Governor during the State Budget talks. However, any measures that make it into the final budget would not go into effect while the country is under a federal national emergency, which prohibits health care cuts.

Bill & Committee Reports

The Legislature introduced 45 bills this week. Only two bills were voted on, and passed by both houses this week; legislation reducing the number of required petition signatures for ballot access during the June 2020 primary season to 30% of the statutory threshold, and legislation providing paid sick leave for employees who are placed under mandatory or precautionary quarantine due to COVID-19. The Governor signed both bills the day they were passed.

Both houses have adjourned until the call of their leaders. Therefore, there have been no Committee Agendas announced for next week.

We will continue to monitor how the COVID-19 situation effects the State Legislature and keep you updated on any developments.

If nothing is attached it means there were no actions on any of your marked bills this week.