Queens Lawmakers On The Move Dec. 4, 2019

Queens County City Council News

Sanders Updates Community on SE Queens Sewage Spill 

State Sen. James Sanders Jr.

State Sen. James Sanders Jr. (D-Rochdale Village, Far Rockaway) joined Mayor de Blasio and other Queens elected officials for an emergency press conference this week to update the community on issues stemming from a sewage main blockage that occurred over the weekend, damaging hundreds of homes in Southeast Queens.

“This is a terrible and unfortunate incident to have happened, especially around the holidays,” Sanders said. “My office will be working with the city and all of the appropriate agencies to help affected homeowners recover and resume their busy lives.”

The exact cause of the blockage is unknown and still being investigated. The affected pipe, which is located 40 feet below ground, carries sewage from the community to a treatment center. The blockage sent foul waste spilling into basements and flooding homes. Heavily impacted areas include the section of Jamaica near the Belt Parkway and Kennedy Airport. 

The city has added a pump around system (a pipe at ground level that can carry the sewage away from the area), while the main pipe is being excavated, examined and repaired. Mayor de Blasio told residents that the water in their homes is safe to drink because it is transported through different pipes. 

Residents impacted by the flooding should file a claim with their insurance company and the Comptroller’s Office to cover any damage from the sewage. The city has set up an emergency center at the Courtyard Marriott, 145-11 North Conduit Avenue, Jamaica, NY 11436, to provide affected residents with resources. 

Sanders also has a limited supply of cleaning kits available for pick up at his District Office for those who need the proper gear. The office is located at 142-01 Rockaway Boulevard in South Ozone Park.

Simotas Lauds That Expanded IVF Coverage Takes Effect In January 

Assembly Member Aravella Simotas

Assembly Member Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria, Long Island City) yesterday lauded Governor Andrew M. Cuomo for reminding New Yorkers of their rights under New York’s expansion of in vitro fertilization – or IVF – coverage and fertility preservation services that will take effect on January 1, 2020. 

To help New York residents and insurers better understand the new law, the State Department of Financial Services issued a Frequently Asked Questions document to clarify the changes to IVF coverage and fertility preservation services, including mandatory coverage of prescription drugs by large group health insurers provided in connection with IVF services. The FAQs provide New Yorkers with information to help understand eligibility and coverage details and instruct insurers on compliance with legal requirements under the expanded reproductive coverage.

New mandated benefits under the law include:

  • Mandatory Coverage of prescription drugs in connection with IVF services by large group health insurance policies.
  • Access to fertility preservation services for insured New Yorkers who are about to undergo gender-affirming care.
  • Health insurance policies that provide comprehensive care must cover fertility preservation services, which include egg and/or embryo storage if medically necessary until the three required IVF cycles are provided.
  • Coverage for three cycles of IVF, including all treatment that starts when preparatory medications are administered for ovarian stimulation with the intent of undergoing IVF using a fresh or frozen embryo, by large group health insurance policies.

The law also prohibits age restrictions on IVF coverage and prohibits insurers from imposing lifetime limitations on fertility preservation services.

“Infertility is a heartbreaking medical condition that affects countless New York families each year. In-vitro fertilization has long been considered the gold standard of care for this disease, but patients were unable to access this safe and effective treatment,” said Simotas. “I am heartened that many New Yorkers will finally be able to access IVF coverage without being forced to choose between paying exorbitant out-of-pocket medical costs and starting the families they desire.”

Meng Introduces Bill To Improve Consumer Product Recalls

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D- Bayside, Flushing, Forest Hills, Fresh Meadows, Glendale, Kew Gardens, Maspeth, Middle Village, Rego Park), a founder and Co-Chair of the Congressional Kids’ Safety Caucus, yesterday announced the introduction of the Total Recall Act, a bill that would require businesses to strengthen and streamline the way they notify consumers about product recalls. 

Currently, the average response rate of consumers for most recalls is only between 4 and 18 percent.

Meng’s legislation would increase notifications for all types of recalls by requiring businesses to post recall notices on their websites and on all social media accounts. For a mandatory recall, businesses would be required to notify the public by spending at least 25 percent of the money they used for traditional marketing of the product. 

For a voluntary recall and settlement, companies would be urged to notify consumers by using at least 25 percent of the product’s original traditional marketing budget and 100 percent of the social media marketing budget. The bill would also mandate that the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) provide an annual report to Congress on participation rates for each recall.

“Each year, businesses launch nearly 30,000 new products, but some of those items may endanger the health and safety of our families and our homes,” said Meng. “We can’t expect busy parents and consumers to consistently check for possible problems every time they purchase a product. If a company sells a dangerous item, that company should rightly be expected to market the recall as aggressively as they marketed the sale of the product. An average recall response rate between 4-18 percent is not just unacceptable; it is irresponsible. Every single day a family unknowingly continues to use an already recalled product, is a day too long. The Total Recall Act would ensure that companies commit to effective and impactful outreach on all recalled products, and I urge all my colleagues to support it.”

Gillibrand Launches Push For More Community Health Center Funding

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) yesterday launched a new push to extend, raise, and reauthorize funding for Community Health Centers (CHCs) across New York and the country. 

The push comes as Congress has less than three weeks to go to approve funding for vital health care programs. Unless Congress approves funding for CHCs by December 20, the centers could lose more than 70 percent of their federal grant funding, causing health centers to cut or scale back the services they provide. 

CHCs provide high-quality, comprehensive, and low-cost care to millions of New Yorkers, and provide services to patients regardless of income and insurance coverage. With more than 29 million Americans depending on Community Health Centers for affordable health care, Gillibrand’s push would extend, raise, and reauthorize long-term funding for these critical programs at the highest level possible.  

“Community Health Centers are the embodiment of healthcare as a human right. They provide a wide-range of services to some of our most vulnerable populations and help ensure our communities have access to quality health care,” said Gillibrand. “However, federal funding for these vital health care resources is at risk of being slashed. That’s why I am urging Leader McConnell and my colleagues to extend, raise, and reauthorize the Community Health Center Fund, which would secure funding for these centers for the next five years and increase the amount of funding they receive. I will continue to fight for the resources our health centers need to keep providing this vital care.

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