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Assembly Holds Series of Legislative Hearings Ahead of 2022 Legislative Session

Although the Legislative Session does not begin until mid-January, the New York State Assembly has been busy over the last several weeks hosting a series of legislative hearings on a wide range of topics and issue areas. Among the issue areas of focus have been the state’s health care delivery system and workforce challenges.

As we reported in early November, the Assembly Standing Committee on Health held a hearing on Nov. 1st to receive testimony on the State Medicaid program's efficacy and sustainability. Karen Lipson of LeadingAge NY submitted written testimony and testified at this hearing in person in New York City. If you missed the livestream of the hearing but would like to see Karen’s testimony, it can be viewed here.

Since the Medicaid hearing, the Assembly has held a slew of other hearings on similar issue areas. On Nov. 17th, the Assembly Standing Committees on Health, Labor, and Higher Education held a hearing to examine how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the delivery of health care and its impact on the health care workforce. In attendance were Chairs Richard Gottfried, Latoya Joyner, Deborah Glick, Ranker Kevin Byrne, and Assembly Members Harvey Epstein, Linda Rosenthal, Jo Anne Simon, and Jodi Giglio.

At the start of the Nov. 17th hearing, Higher Education Committee Chair Glick addressed that the last-minute nature of the hearing prevented certain agencies from being able to participate. She noted that the committees would likely need to revisit these issues at a later date. As a result, the hearing was dominated by advocates' accounts of the current state of health care. Witnesses unanimously cited staff shortages as the leading cause of concern moving forward, gave a number of possible causes, and offered various budgetary and legislative solutions. Common areas of focus were education, working conditions, recruitment, and retention.

The only state agency representative to attend the hearing was Adam Herbst, Special Advisor to the Commissioner on Aging and Long Term Care, Department of Health (DOH), who gave a brief outline of the success of DOH programs such as Doctors Across New York, Diversity in Medicine, and loan repayment. Mr. Herbst was hesitant to respond to many of the questions posed by legislators, especially those regarding budget priorities and potential legislation. Instead, he extensively praised the measures in executive orders from 2020 and the steps the State has taken to expand telehealth.

LeadingAge NY is submitting written testimony for this hearing, addressing the urgent need for the State to address workforce needs in the context of the unique impact the pandemic has had on long term care providers and direct care workers. Archived video of this hearing, as well as all past Assembly hearings, can be viewed here.

Another hearing of note was one held by the Assembly Standing Committee on Aging on Nov. 22nd. The focus of this hearing was the impact of COVID-19 on programs and support services for older adults and their caregivers within the state. In attendance were Chair Ron Kim and Assembly Members Alfred Taylor, Billy Jones, and Jake Ashby.

Legislators and guest speakers focused on the workforce shortage and the issues facing older adults statewide. On the workforce end, the primary concern was low wages, followed by burnout, undervaluing of human services, and an overdependence on volunteers. Apart from the workforce, speakers raised concerns over elder abuse, data obfuscation, social isolation, and outreach.

Unanimously, speakers acknowledged that there are unmet needs across the state. Greg Olsen, Director of the New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA), estimated that roughly 4,000 to 5,000 people are on waiting lists for services. Mr. Olsen pointed to the workforce shortage, transportation, and lack of services in rural areas as major causes for these issues. Speakers were also widely in agreement that the root cause for the workforce shortage is low wages. Becky Preve, Executive Director of the Association on Aging in New York, theorized that older adults may be hesitant to be a drain on society; others echoed this idea of stigma being a barrier to services.

LeadingAge NY will be submitting written testimony for the Nov. 22nd hearing as well, addressing the urgent need for the State to provide financial relief to aging services providers to ensure access to quality services for older New Yorkers. Again, archived video of this hearing, as well as all other recently held Assembly hearings, can be viewed here.

Contact: Sarah Daly, sdaly@leadingageny.org