Monthly Archives: May 2013

Crain’s Op-ed: Fixing workers’ comp

Crain's New York Business logoThe following op-ed was posted by Crain’s New York Business. It zeros in on the high cost of New York’s workers’ compensation system. The op-ed mentions The Business Council’s advocacy efforts to improve that system – efforts that are bearing some fruit.

Crains: Corruption, campaign finance reform and fracking may be hot topics in Albany, but rank-and-file businesses across the state are more concerned about a less sensational subject: workers’ compensation. While it’s not an issue that propels political careers, New York’s system costs a whopping $6 billion a year. Surveys show only health insurance to be a greater worry for business owners.

Workers’ compensation reform happens rarely in New York because powerful vested interests—notably the plaintiff bar—are adept at maintaining what, for them, is a lucrative status quo. Aside from some key changes won by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in this year’s budget, the last significant fix was in the early days of the Spitzer administration. That 2007 change broadened the distribution of money, the vast majority of which had been going to a small fraction of workers injured on the job. But the savings that businesses were projected to realize have been overwhelmed by rising costs that were ignored or even abetted by the Spitzer reform.

With three weeks remaining in the 2013 session, there is little hope that legislators will make any more improvements this year. In fact, the business lobby is currently occupied—as it often is—with blocking bills that would make the system worse. The trial lawyers’ lobby knows its best defense is a good offense, so it pushes poisonous bills that consume the business community’s attention and resources.

Meanwhile, the Cuomo administration has shifted its efforts to improvements it can make administratively. In fact, it implemented one just last week: The Workers’ Compensation Board, after seven months of intensive advocacy by the Business Council of New York State, declared that injured employees can be assumed to have reached “maximum medical improvement” after two years. Even though the healing process for nearly all injuries rarely exceeds eight months, businesses hailed the new policy as a victory because lawyers had been dragging out cases, allowing their “still healing” clients to milk the system for six years of interim payments before starting the 10-year compensation clock established by the 2007 reform.

But many similar quirks remain unaddressed, notably the outdated schedules that dictate how long workers are paid for a given injury. Thanks to advances in medical care, ailments that once persisted for months or years are now fixed in a fraction of that time—yet the gravy train of yesteryear rolls on. That should be addressed this year by Mr. Cuomo, and next year he must press the Assembly again for reforms it denied him in March. The quest for a fair and rational workers’ compensation system continues.

[NOTE: As New York’s employers continue to struggle under the growing costs of the Workers’ Comp system, The Business Council is uniquely poised to make a significant positive impact to the system.  Not only is The Business Council the recognized representative of New York’s businesses by the Administration and the Board, through very regular communication, the Legislature has added our participation in the process into law.]

Adirondack Health to decide on Lake Placid ER

Trustees at Adirondack Health need more time to determine next steps in hospital restructuring extending their decisionmaking timeframe by 60 days. More time to study the plan to convert the emergency room at the Adirondack Medical Center into an urgent-care center will allow the board to further review feedback fromt he public on the project.  The Press Republican has more on the story.

NYISO review of New York’s power grid released

According to a report by Reuters, New York’s electric grid operator said on Thursday the state should have enough power resources to meet customer needs until at least 2019, if demand grows as currently forecast. However, the New York Independent System Operator also raised concern about the future of the Indian Point nuclear plan, writing that it represents “one of the biggest risks to the reliability of the state’s grid.” Indian Point supplies a quarter of the power used by New York City. But there are doubts whether the plant’s federal licenses will be renewed when they expire this year and 2015.

The Cuomo administration has called for Indian Point’s closure and state regulators have told utilities to move ahead with an $800 million contingency plan in the event Indian Point closes in 2016. However, The Business Council believes the governor has not adequately examined the economic impact that would result from the loss of the nuclear plant.

“Unlike typical rate increases that only affect specific utility customers, all New Yorkers are being asked to bankroll this (contingency plan), effectively subsidizing the electricity of New York City and Westchester County customers,” Heather Briccetti, president and CEO of The Business Council of New York State, wrote regulators several months ago.

Bill to promote NY-grown products in restaurants passes Senate, Assembly

The Business Council has long supported the Dine: Pride of New York Program bill that was passed by both the Senate and Assembly Thursday. In a bill memo supporting the measure, The Business Council wrote, “Eating organic, the local food movement, and agri-tourism have all contributed to helping local restaurants succeed. The Business Council supports the Dine: Pride of New York program for continuing to find creative ways to bolster New York’s top industries.” Specifically, the memo notes, “This new program is intended to specifically help promote restaurants that use a substantial amount of New York State grown and manufactured ingredients in their menus. Although restaurants are permitted to apply and participate in the original program, the new Dine: Pride of New York program is specifically tailored to restaurants, and the promotional materials and marketing efforts can be used to attract both in-state residents and visiting tourists.”

Indeed, The Business Council’s own Made in New York initiative has gained much attention because of renewed interest by consumers to buy locally. Take a look at our Made in New York website and consider becoming a part of the Made in New York Movement. Promote your business, promote your products, promote New York.

Made in New York logo


Catholic Health’s new website gives detailed hospital information

The following story written by Stephen T. Watson of The Buffalo News is an interesting look at Catholic Health’s effort to provide important information to current and prospective patients which go way beyond doctor listings, descriptions of departments and directions to its hospitals. The health system will be providing important data that patients can use to make important decisions.

Click here to read more.

High temps may result in New York power crunch

Image of the SunReduced capacity, partly from effects of Sandy, could lead to blackouts

I did a quick check of the forecast of high temperatures expected in different parts of New York: Albany – 92 degrees;  Buffalo – 85; Syracuse – 92; New York’s Central Park – 92. In this morning’s edition of the Times Union, Larry Rulison warned that a hotter-than-expected summer could lead to power shortages, even blackouts, especially in New York City. Why? “The ghost of Superstorm Sandy,” wrote Rulison. The state will have about 1,000 megawatts less of available electricity than last summer… that translates to about 1 million homes.

NYC voting – back to the past

Election officials in New York City are planning to bring back lever operated voting machines for the mayoral primary this year. They say the electric scanners used for the past three years are “too cumbersome,” writes Thomas Kaplan of The New York Times. Seems odd, given the city spent $95 million to replace the lever machines to bring the voting process into the 21st century, but they have their reasons.

It’s a good story. Kaplan goes into detail.