Monthly Archives: August 2009

NYC Health Reform Rally – A Look Back

Yesterday afternoon, 3,000 New York City residents gathered to show their support for federal health reform and, in particular, the need for a public option. Here are some of the images we were able to capture from the day.

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NYC Rally for Health Reform!

This Saturday, August 29 at 2pm hundreds of New Yorkers are going to gather in Times Square for a rally to support health reform and to urge federal lawmakers not to capitulate to right-wing extremist opposition to a public health insurance option.  Please join us!  And spread the word to friends, family, pets, neighbors, co-workers and anyone else who supports progressive health policy!


Saturday, August 29, 2009
Community Walks leave from locations across the city.* Walks converge for a 2 pm gathering in Times Square.

Health care reform is finally within our grasp, but special interests are spending millions every day and political partisans are spreading vicious lies to stop it. They want President Obama and Congress to fail and cave on important reforms like the choice of a public option. We cannot let that happen!

America voted for change last fall, and now we must see it through. Join hundreds of New Yorkers to walk and stand for historic health reform legislation now before Congress, and to rededicate ourselves to the mission of Senator Edward Kennedy’s decades-long fight for health care justice.

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Participating Organizations [list in formation]: ACORN, American Run for the End of AIDS (AREA), Arab-American Family Support Center, Asian-Pacific Americans for Progress, Barack Obama Democratic Club, Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled, Brooklyn for Barack, Center for Independence of the Disabled NY, Choices in Childbirth, Citizen Action of New York City, Coalition for a District Alternative, Commission on the Public’s Health System, Committee of Interns and Residents SEIU, Communication Workers of America Local 1180, Community Health Care Assoc. of NYS, Community Healthcare Network, Democracy for NYC, 504 Democratic Club, Disabled in Action, District Council 1707 AFSCME, Doctors for America, Doctors for Global Health, Downtown East for Obama, Greater NY Labor-Religion Coalition, Gynuity, Harlem4, Health Care for All New York, Hispanic Senior Action Council, Institute for Puerto Rican and Hispanic Elderly, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 30, Latinos4Change, Latinos for National Health Insurance, Make the Road NY, Metro New York Health Care for All Campaign, MoveOn, NARAL Pro-Choice NY, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, National Physicians Alliance, New Space for Women’s Health, New Yorkers for Accessible Health Coverage, Northwest Bronx for Change, NY Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Freedom Project, NY Democratic Socialists of America, NY Immigration Coalition, NY Lawyers for the Public Interest, NYC Alliance Against Sexual Assault, NYC Central Labor Council, NYC for Change, NYS AFL-CIO, Organizing for America, Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health, Planned Parenthood of New York City Action Fund, Private Health Insurance Must Go Coalition, Prospectors for Change, Public Health Association of NYC, Queens County For Change, Raising Women’s Voices for the Health Care We Need, Rekindling Reform, Reproductive Health Access Project, SEIU Local 32BJ, 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, Small Business United for Health Care, South Asians for Opportunity, Taxi Workers Alliance, Tribeca for Change, United Auto Workers Region 9A, Upper West Side Baby Boomers for Obama’s Agenda, Voterbook, WCLA-Choice Matters of Westchester County, Westchester Health Reform Task Force, Women’s City Club of NY, Working Families Party, Young Invincibles

*Community Walks leaving from hospitals, community health centers, & churches [list in formation] – check for exact time and location info.

Need more info? Check-in at, or contact, 212-925-1829

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A First for NYC and the Nation

Yesterday, the New York City Council passed the Language Access in Pharmacies Act by a vote of 36 to 7, making it the first jurisdiction in the country to enact legislation ensuring that limited English proficient (LEP) individuals have equal and safe access to prescription medications.  We worked closely with Make the Road New York and the bill’s sponsor, Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, to draft the bill, negotiate its provisions and lobby for passage.  You can read/view articles about this in the Gotham Gazette, Channel 7 News, El Diario and the Daily News Blog.

The bill builds upon the agreements reached by the New York State Attorney General with major chain pharmacies in New York State in that it expands the number of pharmacies subject to stricter language access requirements (any pharmacy with 4+ stores), provides for fines and penalties in case of violation and does not expire after 2013, as the agreements do, among other things.

This is a huge victory for immigrant New Yorkers and for anyone concerned with public health, but we’re not quite ready to hang up our hats and call an end to the campaign.  There are a lot of things that the state regulates in terms of pharmacies (and that the city has no power over) that should be improved to ensure that LEP New Yorkers statewide are guaranteed equal access to prescription medications.  So, we plan to take our show on the road: from City Hall to Albany.  Stay tuned for more on these efforts and how you can get involved!

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Hasta La Victoria, Siempre

On Thursday, August 20, 2009, the New York City Council is going to vote on and pass a bill on language rights in pharmacies — the first law of its kind in the country.  We’ll be on the steps of City Hall at 1pm, right before the vote, to celebrate – join us!

This victory is the latest in a series of victories that began in the fall of 2007, when we filed a civil rights complaint on behalf of Make the Road New York against several NYC pharmacies for failing to provide equal access to their services for non-English speakers.  This complaint resulted in settlement agreements with seven of the major chain pharmacies operating in New York, improving access to prescription medications for almost 1 million customers statewide.  Intro 859-A, sponsored by Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, expands upon the settlement agreements in important ways: it covers a broader range of chain pharmacies; provides for fines and penalties for violations; and, unlike the settlement agreements, won’t expire in 2013.  (For all of the documents and background materials associated with this campaign, please click here.)

We are proud to be associated with this landmark legislation and to be a part of a truly community-driven campaign for improved health access.  Si, se puede!

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Filed under immigrant health, legislation, news

Hate and the Politics of Health Reform

Raucous right-wing outbursts against health reform have been garnering a lot of attention lately, including within community organizing fora such as comm-org, whose editor recently asked: “Are right wing groups really building grass roots organizations and engaging in strategic actions? Or is this just right-wing-media-generated frenzy without any real organizing going on?”  According to one thoughtful response:

“People misunderstand Alinsky’s tactics and what community organizing is about. It is NOT about being disruptive; it is about helping poor people and disenfranchised people find their voice and carve out their own platform for expression. It IS about helping people empower themselves; bringing the oppressed together to stop oppressing each other and to identify the real oppressors; and taking collective action to make a positive difference.”

Indeed, community organizing is not about hate — not about the kind of unrighteous indignation that prompted one anti-health reform protester in New Hampshire to bellow: “We don’t need illegals. Send ‘em all back. Send ‘em back with a bullet in the head the second time.”  And hate there is in abundance at these town hall meetings, carefully crafted hate designed to shore up political fear and laziness.  It is notable, for instance, that even the inclusion of legal immigrants in health care reform is considered too hot to touch by most federal legislators, though there are plenty of reasons to believe that doing so will only help everyone.

Those of us in New York may be tempted to hear-no-evil and see-no-evil when it comes to the place of immigrants in health care reform because  legal immigrants, at least, are eligible for public health insurance and other benefits under our state law, so the decisions regarding immigrant inclusion made at the federal level may have little practical relevance for folks living here.  (This is due to a lawsuit that was filed by several public interest legal organizations in New York City in the late-1990s, which resulted in the state’s highest court declaring that “care for the needy is not a matter of legislative grace; it is a constitutional mandate.”)  But the kind of hate-mongering that has infected the public conversation on health policy is an affront to the low-income communities of color and immigrant communities that we represent, and to the kind of authentic and inclusive grassroots organizing for health justice that we embrace.  We have a responsibility to offer an alternative frame to the debates, one centered on concepts of fairness, commitment, common sense and public welfare.  (Click here for a set of resources from our friends at the National Immigration Law Center.)  And we have the duty to inform others–our friends, family and neighbors–that true community organizing is not what they are seeing and reading about in these town hall meetings . Real organizing is about solidarity and social justice, not about divisiveness and disruption. Real organizing is what we can all do in response to the angry few.

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Filed under immigrant health, immigrant rights

Carrots and Sticks

Check out this post from our friends at the Empire Justice Center about some legislation we’ve been trying to push to try and get New York State Medicaid to reimburse health care providers for language assistance services.  In other words: when a Medicaid patient who is limited English proficient (“LEP,” for those of us in the biz) goes to a hospital or community health center, she should be provided with an interpreter so she can actually understand what her doctor is telling her and, reciprocally, the provider should get reimbursed through Medicaid for the cost of that interpreter.

You may be wondering, why would a consumer advocacy organization like ours spend time pushing for legislation that would put more money in health care providers’ pockets?  Simple: sometimes carrots work better than sticks.  We’ve worked closely with the sponsors of the bills to make sure that the Medicaid reimbursement is structured in an accountable way: providers will only get money if they actually provide language access services.  Also, they will only get reimbursed if they provide competent language assistance services — not if they pull someone in from the waiting room to interpret, or if they use a staff member who doesn’t have the requisite training.

Should health care providers be making these services available under the law, regardless?  Yes.  Will we be watching to enforce the law, funding or not?  Absolutely. But we’ve also dangled a carrot at the end of our stick in the hopes that, together, we can ensure equal access to high-quality health care for all.

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Filed under immigrant health, legislation