Albany Agenda

Hochul unveils proposal to eliminate insulin co-pays in New York

In a toned-down preview of her agenda for the year, the governor said she would aim to expand consumer protections.

Unlike last year, Hochul previewed smaller policy proposals for her 2024 legislative agenda.

Unlike last year, Hochul previewed smaller policy proposals for her 2024 legislative agenda. Susan Watts/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Tuesday offered the first sneak peek into her State of the State agenda. Rather than rolling out a cornerstone proposal, like last year’s ill-fated housing plan, the governor chose to highlight a much lower-profile part of her agenda for the year: consumer protections. 

Speaking at her Manhattan office, Hochul said she wanted to preview her State of the State with a proposal that might otherwise get swept up among other high-profile aspects of her annual address, which is scheduled for next week. “I wanted to give some previews of some of the initiatives that take a little more time to explain, I don’t want them to get lost in a longer narrative,” Hochul said of her decision on how to begin rolling out her agenda for the year. “But I want you to know how important this is to me.” She added that it’s part of a plan to “improve the quality of life for New Yorkers” and to make the state more affordable. 

Notably, Hochul said she wanted to take steps to tackle medical debt and prescription drug costs, saying she would propose legislation that would eliminate co-pays for insulin. She called it “the most expansive insulin cost-sharing prohibition in the nation” that would provide relief to 1.6 million New Yorkers. Hochul also said she would propose legislation that would protect low-income New Yorkers from lawsuits over their medical debt, building on a law she recently signed that prevents that debt from impacting credit reports.

In addition to the medical debt items, Hochul also said she plans to propose “the first major expansion” to the state’s consumer protection laws in 40 years. “There are only seven states where abusive and unfair business practices are not covered by the law,” Hochul said. “Guess who’s one of the seven. Guess who’s no longer going to be one of the seven.”

Although she said the announcement was focused on making New York more affordable, Hochul did not mention the housing affordability crisis facing the state in her prepared remarks. After her plans to spur housing growth last year largely failed to materialize and lawmakers passed minimal housing policy, the issue is expected to headline the 2024 legislative session again. “We are approaching this once again and hoping that the Legislature works… with us again to focus on supply,” Hochul said in response to a reporter’s question. “We build more supply, prices go down, more people will stay.

Unlike her predecessor, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who would often roll out pieces of his agenda leading up to his State of the State, Hochul has tended to offer minimal details before her formal address. But she has offered previews into her major initiatives even if she did not release the full plan. In December 2022, Hochul announced that her 2023 State of the State would include a plan to build 800,000 units of housing over the next 10 years. It got the buzz going ahead of the address about which specific proposals she would include to reach that goal. 

Compared to that ambitious vision, Hochul is being more cautious heading into this election year. She has made it clear that she intends to revisit the housing issue again, even if she has offered even fewer hints than in the past. Lawmakers and political observers expect housing to emerge as a major issue in the 2024 session as well, as tenant advocates continue to push for new tenant protections and real estate developers still would like to see a new version of a tax break to spur affordable housing construction. Hochul has, however, all but explicitly confirmed that she will abandon construction mandates for new housing – a key part of her plan last year – in whatever she proposes this year.

Although Hochul has remained largely tightlipped about specifics for her agenda this year, she also told reporters she would again focus on improving mental health services during a related event in December. “We’ll be talking about it more in my State of the State address as we unveil our third year of a tireless commitment to investing in mental health services like we never have before,” Hochul said at the time. Last year, she announced a $1 billion plan that included adding 1,000 beds for psychiatric treatment and 3,500 units of supportive housing for New Yorkers with mental illnesses.