Q&A with Corey Johnson on Health and Hospitals

Q&A with Corey Johnson on Health and Hospitals

Q&A with Corey Johnson on Health and Hospitals
February 11, 2015

Q: What were your top accomplishments in your first year chairing the Health Committee?
CJ: We held oversight hearings on a wide range of public health issues, including the financial stability of the public hospital system and boosting access to care, and we approved a city budget that put a focus on hard-to-reach communities. We also passed legislation allowing transgender New Yorkers to amend the gender markers on their birth certificates. Previously, they could only do so after undergoing surgery that was not an option for many. We passed bills regulating pet stores, safeguarding the treatment of animals and cracking down on negligent social adult day care centers. In a change from past budgets, we were able to expand funding to combat HIV/AIDS in communities of color, infant mortality and hepatitis B and C.

Q: Have there been any changes to the city Health and Hospitals Corporation since the state received the Medicaid waiver?
CJ: To date, only $500 million of the $8 billion Medicaid waiver funds has been distributed and only a small portion of that has been allocated to HHC. HHC is one of 10 New York City-based “Performing Provider Systems” competing for funds. As the largest public hospital network in the U.S. and the state’s biggest provider of uncompensated care, it is critical it receives its fair share. The receipt of these funds is necessary given HHC’s budget deficit, which is expected to grow due to a loss of federal funding— despite increases in uncompensated care. The waiver, coupled with the recent announcement that the federal government has approved Gotham Health, the network of 39 primary care sites, for “Federally Qualified Health Center Look-Alike” status, will help HHC continue to fulfill its mission of providing quality healthcare to all New Yorkers, irrespective or their ability to pay or insurance status.

Q: The city won a federal grant to improve treatment of those with hepatitis C. How has that been working?
CJ: This project will test a model involving a robust effort to identify persons with hepatitis C and connecting them to comprehensive medical care and adherence support. Given recent medical advances, hepatitis C treatment is now shorter, less toxic and more effective than in the past. A cure has become achievable for those who can afford treatment but still remains elusive for many on Medicaid. As part of the larger campaign to combat hepatitis in its various forms, I introduced a bill last year with Council Members Margaret Chin and Peter Koo that would require the Health Department to issue an annual report on its efforts to identify and prevent the spread of hepatitis B and C. This information is essential to community-based organizations, health professionals and government partners and will assist greatly in combating these diseases. We also launched a $750,000 hepatitis initiative to fund the training of local health providers to do testing, outreach and screening by the Health Department and local community-based organizations to encourage testing for hepatitis and supporting linkages to culturally competent care for those diagnosed with these diseases.

Q: Why the new focus on animal issues in your committee?
CJ: Animal welfare legislation in the city has lain dormant for many years due to state preemption. The city recently regained its ability to establish standards and regulations for the pet industry. We passed four bills in December, including one regulating irresponsible breeders and requiring pet shops to disclose information about the origins and health of the animals they sell. Some breeding operations are known to keep dogs in cages their entire lives, with the sole purpose of producing litters. It is our responsibility to make sure that the city is not contributing to this problem. We also sought to keep animals out of the hands of abusive owners by creating standards that potential owners must meet before obtaining a new pet. And we passed measures to address overpopulation and animal homelessness. This session, we’re going to do more.

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