EXTEND HEALTH CARE REFORM ACT
New York State’s Health Care Reform Act (HCRA) – which provides hundreds of millions of dollars in special funding to reimburse hospitals and clinics that provide care to the uninsured, for worker retraining and for teaching hospitals – is due to expire on Dec. 31. In July the State Assembly adopted HCRA 2000, which extends many elements of the present system but would go beyond it to establish Family Health Plus, a program to provide affordable health insurance coverage to more than 300,000 New Yorkers. Major sources of funding would be the state’s tobacco settlement funds and available federal matching funds.
HCRA 2000 would also increase funding to hospitals and health care facilities that care for uninsured patients in under-served areas, and lower costs approximately 10 percent for those who buy their own health insurance. It would require HMOs to have personnel available around the clock and to pay their bills on time, ensuring that additional costs are not passed on to consumers. It would require training dollars to be invested to help health industry workers keep up with technological advances, and increase funding for biomedical research and medical education.
As this issue went to press, neither the Senate nor the governor had put forth a proposal for renewing HCRA. Contact Gov. George Pataki at (518) 474-8390 and State Sen. Joseph Bruno at (518) 455-3191. Urge them to see that HCRA 2000 is passed in the Senate and enacted into law.
YES, IT CAN BE DONE
On Nov. 2, the 14-point Charter Revision referendum put forward by Mayor Giulani went down to resounding defeat. By a ratio of three to one, New York City voters informed the Mayor that they would not be snookered into giving much broader powers to the mayor’s office.
This victory can be attributed to the city’s unions, who mobilized to inform members about the issue and turn out the vote. Phone banks were working for weeks before people went to the polls and thousands of leaflets were distributed. Labor’s efforts offset an extraordinary barrage of television commercials, phone calls and mailings to voters from the mayor and his charter revision commission, urging passage of the referendum.
The campaign showed that, if you want to influence the electoral process, you’ve got to be part of it. You’ve got to vote. If you don’t, those in power can do whatever suits them. Contact Local 802 if you (or any family members, or friends) need assistance in registering to vote.
CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM LAW UPHELD
In a victory for advocates of campaign finance reform, a federal judge has upheld Maine’s groundbreaking Clean Election Law, which was passed in 1996 but has been bogged down by legal challenges. The ruling sets an important legal precedent for similar laws which have been enacted in Vermont, Massachusetts and Arizona. A similar initiative is pending in New York: Clean Money, Clean Elections. (A guest column in the September Allegro by NYS Senator Eric Schneiderman, one of the bill’s prime sponsors, described how the measure would “end the corrosive influence of private money on American public life,” and listed ways for 802 members to get involved.)
The need for state initiatives on this issue was pointed up in October, when Big Business and its Senate allies who count on corporate contributions scuttled federal legislation for campaign finance reform. Meanwhile, a new report by the Center for Responsive Politics shows that business contributed $666.6 million to candidates and parties in the 1998 election cycle, while working families, through their unions, contributed $60.8 million. The spending gap is likely to widen: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently announced plans to launch an “unprecedented expansion” of its efforts to elect pro-business candidates.