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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.