blair horner

Good government alarm bells are ringing in Albany.  Numerous news reports have accused the governor’s aides of interfering in the activities of the state commission investigating corruption in government.

The big news of the past week has been the shutdown of the federal government.  The rationale for the gridlock has been well reported:  The House Republican Congressional leadership has decided to block funding of the federal government as its leverage to defund, cripple or delay implementation of the health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act.

NY Ballot Wording Puts Rosy Spin On Casinos

Sep 12, 2013

A referendum on the November ballot to consider approving seven casinos in New York is raising some eyebrows among good-government advocates for wording that promises to lower taxes, provide more money for schools and create more jobs.

One political scientist says the language is pushing voters for a "yes" vote sought by Albany politicians.

The unusually optimistic theme makes no mention that the claims are disputed by some researchers and doesn't note the decline of some casinos in the Northeast or the rise in problem gambling that can shatter families and increase crime.

Blair Horner: Comparing States

Sep 9, 2013

Earlier this summer, two states – Texas and Florida – ran radio commercials touting those states’ business climates in an effort to convince New York companies to move their operations.  The focus of the ads was that those states were more business friendly with lower taxes and less regulation.  Thus, the ads argued, Texas and Florida were the places to do business.

Blair Horner: Back-peddling On Obamacare

Aug 19, 2013

The debate over health care reform has been remarkable.  The Obama Administration offers a plan based on the program in Massachusetts, which was developed as the result of a bipartisan agreement.  The Congress approves it and the US Supreme Court rules it to be legal.

It’s early August.  We’re past summer’s midpoint and the barrage of back-to-school ads have begun.  While those ads may offer parents a light at the end of the tunnel, thinking about schoolchildren also raises an important policy issue: the growing problem of childhood obesity.

Last week some of the economic benefits of the federal health care reform law became evident.  The Cuomo Administration released its estimates on the costs of health insurance for those who must pay for coverage – people who don’t get health insurance from the government or their employer.  Virtually all New Yorkers will have to have health coverage by January 1, 2014.

In a few short months, Americans who need health insurance will be able to obtain it.  They will either get it from the government – through programs like Medicare or Medicaid, from their employers, or purchase it themselves from health marketplaces, known as health benefit exchanges.

Early last month a report graded each of the 50 states’ policies on how well they controlled patients’ pain.  The report showed that much progress had been made over the last decade in implementing balanced policies that increase access to effective pain medications and establish a system to mitigate drug abuse.  However, much more needs to be done.

Higher prices have been shown to encourage smokers to quit or reduce their consumption of cigarettes.  Cigarette tax evasion makes cigarettes cheaper and reduces the public health benefits of New York’s excise tax, as well as depriving the state of much-needed revenue.  Were the tax collected on all cigarettes smoked in New York, tens of thousands of adults would quit rather than pay higher prices, and state revenues would dramatically increase.

Over the next few weeks, you’ll be hearing about the accomplishments of the 2013 legislative session, which ended last week.  And lawmakers did approve some legislation, but one key consumer issue was left unaddressed.

Blair Horner: A Big Gift For Big Tobacco?

Jun 17, 2013

This week is the scheduled end of the legislative session.  Often the end of session is a time when special interest legislation surfaces – it looks like this year is no exception.

Lawmakers are considering legislation that would give a gift to the tobacco industry.  Under the proposal, tobacco companies – and only tobacco companies, no other types of businesses – would not have to post a bond that is the equivalent of the judgment against them in court. 

 As the nation moves closer to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the debate continues.  The House of Representatives’ leadership will, once again, advance legislation to repeal the law.  Predictably, the effort will fail.

Blair Horner: From one cliff to the next

May 6, 2013

Tobacco companies are an extreme example of how greed trumps morality in America’s marketplace.  Every year roughly 500,000 smokers die from tobacco use and the industry knows it must at least replace those lost customers – plus the ones who successfully quit the addiction.

Blair Horner: Sequester Cuts Begin To Bite

Apr 29, 2013

Americans are starting to feel the bite of the federal sequestration.  Sequestration is the term referring to the automatic, across-the-board budget cuts in the federal government’s domestic and military budgets.  Sequestration went into effect last month when Congress was unable to agree on an alternative.

Blair Horner: President Obama's Budget

Apr 15, 2013

Last week, President Obama offered his plan for the federal budget.  According to the President, his proposed $3.7 trillion budget for 2014 would cut deficits by $1.8 trillion over the next decade.  The President’s plan includes a number of proposals, most notably: ending the “sequester” (that’s the current law that has automatically cut federal spending), reducing spending in the Medicare and Social Security programs, as well as tax increases that would primarily hit high-income households and corporations.

The United States spends more on health care than any other nation on earth.  Yet, the U.S. has some of the worst health care outcomes of any nation in the developed world.  Why is that?  It’s due to the tortured way the nation runs its system.

Blair Horner: The Budget Wraps Up

Apr 1, 2013

The 2013-2014 state budget was approved last week, marking the third on-time budget in a row.  Three on-time budgets haven’t occurred in a generation, so there was a lot of back-slapping and “at-a-boys” at the Capitol.

Blair Horner: Obamacare's Third Birthday

Mar 25, 2013

This past weekend marked the third anniversary of passage of the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.”  This is the ACA’s big year; this Fall Americans will be allowed to start enrolling in health insurance plans.  Starting on January 1, 2014, virtually all Americans will be required to have health insurance – either from the government, their employer, or through a health exchange.  Yet, even at this late date, many Americans are still unsure of its impact.

Blair Horner: Health Inequality Grows

Mar 18, 2013

It’s well established that the income gap between rich and poor in America has increased over the past few decades.  Income inequality among developed nations is highest in the United States.  Most of the growth in this inequality has been between the middle class and top earners, with the disparity becoming more extreme the further one goes up in income.

Smoking is New York’s number one cause of cancer deaths.  Yet in recent years, the state has taken its foot off the gas and slashed its investment in combating tobacco in half.  That’s a mistake we’re starting to pay for.

Consider this: in 2009 smoking caused the cancer deaths of over 9,000 New Yorkers, 26 per day.  That staggering number is more than one quarter of all cancer deaths in New York State.  This is a public health catastrophe and reducing the carnage caused by smoking should be a top priority for Albany.

Blair Horner: Colon Cancer Awareness Month

Mar 4, 2013

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, a month dedicated to raising awareness about the need for regular colon cancer screenings.  Also known as colon cancer, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the nation.  Each year in New York State, more than 9,300 new cases of colorectal cancer are diagnosed and over 3,000 preventable deaths occur.

Blair Horner: Sequestration Comes to Albany

Feb 25, 2013

The nation faces its latest budget crisis resulting from gridlock in Washington.  On March 1, budgetary “sequestration” kicks in.  Barring an unlikely last-minute deal, about $85 billion is set to be cut from military, domestic and certain health care programs beginning this Friday.

Governor Cuomo last week unveiled his proposed $140-plus billion budget for New York State.  The goals of the governor’s budget were to close a $1 to $2 billion deficit without raising taxes, as well as to offer his blueprint for spending federal dollars expected to flow to New York to rebuild after Superstorm Sandy.

On the health front, there was some good news: the governor proposed full implementation of the federal health care reform law – aka Obamacare – and to expand Medicaid coverage to tens of thousands of uninsured New Yorkers.

Blair Horner
C.W. McKeen / The Post - Standard, 2006

  New York State – and much of the nation – has made tremendous strides in reducing smoking rates.  In the mid-1960s, nearly half of Americans smoked; today it’s roughly half that nationwide and lower still in New York.

The successes have come as the result of scientific findings that have linked smoking to lung cancer and other health problems.  Those scientific breakthroughs also identified the health risks faced by nonsmokers who were exposed to second hand smoke from tobacco products.

Blair Horner: From one cliff to the next

Jan 7, 2013
Blair Horner
C.W. McKeen / The Post - Standard, 2006

After long and contentious negotiations that extended late into New Year’s Day, Congress passed a measure to at least temporarily avert the most immediate consequences of the so-called “fiscal cliff.”  As you no doubt saw in media coverage over the holidays, on New Year’s Day Democratic and Republican leaders settled on a fared-down package of income tax rate increases for the well-to-do and did little on spending reductions.

Blair Horner: A Look Back on the Fight Against Cancer

Dec 31, 2012
Blair Horner
C.W. McKeen / The Post - Standard, 2006

The dawn of a new year is the time to reflect and to plan a new course.  When it comes to fighting cancer, in 2012 New York took one significant step forward by restricting the use of indoor tanning booths.  As 2013 dawns, more steps are needed.

First some background:  In July, Governor Cuomo signed into law a new restriction on the use of tanning beds by children.  The law, which went into effect in August, bans the use of indoor tanning beds for those aged 16 years old and younger. 

Blair Horner: The Fight Over Obamacare Continues

Dec 17, 2012
Blair Horner
C.W. McKeen / The Post - Standard, 2006

The clock is ticking for Obamacare.  The federal health care law goes into effect in one year – with uninsured Americans allowed to sign up for coverage in about ten months.  Last Friday, implementation of the new law took a big step forward.

Tobacco kills more than 400,000 Americans every year and costs the country about $100 billion in health care bills.  Despite successes in curbing tobacco use over the past four decades, it still is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States.  

Blair Horner: The Case for Expanding Medicaid

Dec 3, 2012

A new report issued by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Urban Institute – two health care think tanks—described the benefits to states which choose to expand Medicaid coverage as allowed under the federal health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act.  The report found that states will receive more than $9 in federal money for every $1 they spend to cover low-income residents.

That’s right: a $9 to $1 ratio.