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APRIL 14, 2010

Symposium Panel
NEW YORK - Early Wednesday morning, April 14, 2010, representatives of business, labor, the insurance industry, community health centers, hospitals, and government gathered at the Hard Rock cafe in Times Square for a morning of bagels, public policy, and rock & roll.  

The event, a symposium on the status of health care reform, was staged by BALCONY, the Business and Labor Coalition of New York, along with the MediCare Rights Center, the Small Business Majority, and the American Cancer Society, to discuss the recently passed Affordable Health Care for America bill, signed into law by President Barrack Obama late last month.  

The symposium was attended by more than 250 individuals representing various sectors and populations impacted by the new legislation.

The keynote speaker of the day was Secretary of the Health and Human Resources Department Kathleen Sebelius, under whose direction the new law is to be implemented.



View the photographs from the Symposium: Photos
View the full program from the Symposium: Program



The Status of Health Care Reform

A BALCONY New York Symposium


Bruce Ventimiglia, BALCONY Co-Chair


Bruce Ventimiglia, chairman and president of Saratoga Capital Management, LLC, gave welcoming remarks and a brief overview of the work that BALCONY does before handing the microphone over to Lou Gordon, Director of BALCONY, and the co-moderator of the event.  

(click here to watch Bruce Ventimiglia's presentation)

Lou Gordon, BALCONY Director

aarpThe purpose of the panel discussion, Gordon stated, was to provide perspective on the notoriously large and complex health care reform bill; to understand how it will affect union members, small business, seniors, and the uninsured; to discuss the next steps for New York; and to debate what federal reform will do to, or for, New York. 

Gordon also noted that BALCONY has, since 2007, endorsed a universal affordable health care plan and that the coalition is thrilled that President Obama's bill has passed and expressed his opinion that it will go a long way towards making affordable universal health care a reality.

Peter Slocum, VP Advocacy, American Cancer Society
SlocumGordon then introduced his co-moderator, Peter Slocum. Slocum expressed his hope that the forum would help business and labor think about how to work through implementation of the new law and introduced the speakers on the panel.

Kathleen Sebelius
, Secretary, Health and Human Services

SebeliusSecretary Sebelius led off her speech by praising BALCONY, its members, and New Yorkers for their work in making the passage of health care reform possible. She then spoke broadly about the bill and its provisions, stressing its value both to businesses (of all sizes) and individuals (of all ages). 
She noted that the passage of the bill rested upon a foundation laid by two pieces of legislation that President Obama signed into law earlier in his term. The first was the Recovery Act, which mandated the upgrading of health care technology and the replacement of a paper records system with a computerized one. The second was legislation that expanded Childrens Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP, coverage to 7 million U.S. children, paid for with a 62-cent increase in the federal cigarette tax. 
Secretary Sebelius stressed that it is important to get the right information about the bill out in order to promote honest and reasonable debate about implementation with stakeholders., "Don't misunderstand how much misinformation is out there," Sebelius said, concluding that the legislation represents a new beginning and a new chance for America to get its health care delivery system on the right track.

(click here to view Sec. Sebelius' presentation)

(click here to view the transcript of Sec. Sebelius' presentation)


Panel Participants:

Joe Baker, President, Medicare Rights Center

BakerJoe Baker spoke about the impact the bill will have on seniors and specifically Medicare patients.  The most important provisions for seniors and Medicare patients, according to Baker, are the elimination of the so-called "donut hole" and the full coverage of preventative care now offered to seniors, often with no out-of-pocket costs.

(click here to watch Joe Baker's presentation)

Ben Geyerhahn, NY Regional Director, Small Business Majority

GeyerhahnBen Geyerhahn spoke about the impact the bill will have on small business.  Geyerhahn stressed that, in his opinion, the new law is small business friendly and that the provisions contained within it are designed to penalize larger companies who can afford health care but do not offer it, while helping small businesses to manage the new cost.  

The most important piece of the bill, Geyerhahn contended, is the relative simplicity that an exchange system will bring to the table. This will, allow business owners to do their own job and concentrate on their business instead of wasting time and energy trying to navigate through an extraordinarily complex maze of insurance plans. 

(click here to watch Ben Geyerhahn's presentation)

John Durso, President, Long Island Federation of Labor
President, RWDSU Local 338

DursoJohn Durso, President of the Long Island Federation of Labor as well as of RWDSU Local 338, talked about the bill's impact on labor unions and their members.  While Durso praised the bill as a watershed piece of legislation, and one that unions have been fighting for a long time, he also expressed caution: "We just don't know what this thing will look like yet."  

Durso asserted that his union spends approximately $2 million a year on uncompensated care and that this bill will go a long way in making sure that money goes back to the members. He also suggested that the law will ultimately allow more people to retire early, freeing up jobs and bolstering the economy. 

(click here to watch John Durso's presentation)

Cindy Gillespie, Managing Director, McKenna Long & Aldridge

GillespieCindi Gillespiespoke to the audience about what exchanges are, what they do, and the options that New York will have in setting up an exchange system. Gillespie used two examples to illustrate some potential pitfalls in setting up an exchange.
First, she pointed to the exchange system in Massachusetts, where she worked, saying that it is very successful in providing insurance to individuals but has so far failed to be as successful in providing insurance to businesses. She contrasted that model with the only other exchange system in the U.S., in Utah, where business has faired better than individuals. Gillespie suggested that the failures in both systems could be remedied by combining business and individual exchanges. 
According to the bill, New York will have to set up its own exchange by 2013 or HHS will step in. The real challenge now that the law is passed, according to Gillespie, is that every state must take the law and craft a system that fits the specific needs of the state.

(click here to watch Cindy Gillespie's presentation)

Troy Oechsner, Deputy Superintendent for Health,
NY State Department of Insurance

OechsnerTroy Oechsner (the only panelist who claimed to have actually read the entire 2,500 page bill), spoke to the audience about how his department is working with stakeholders to begin to make the tough decisions regarding implementation of the health care reform law.  

Oechsner praised the bill for eliminating pre-existing condition barriers as well as requiring an open enrollment community rated system, a system Oechsner boasted New York already had. Oechsner was unsure as to whether the New York State Law that provides insurance coverage to individuals age 19-29, known as the Young Invincibles law, would be superceded by the new federal provision contained in the Health Care Reform law that provides coverage to individuals 19-26. Oechsner concluded by saying that going forward with implementation will require input from all sectors of society and the economy and pledged that his office will work hard to include as many voices as possible as the state begins this process.

(click here to watch Troy Oechsner's presentation)

LaRay Brown, Senior VP, NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation

L BrownLaRay Brown, NYC Health and Hospitals Corp., the largest municipal hospital system in the nation, celebrated the bill for providing coverage to so many people previously uninsured.  

HHC currently serves 1.3 million people a year. Of those, 75% are truly medically indigent. In 2009 HHC saw 432,000 uninsured patients and Brown estimated that the current bill will only extend coverage to about 130,000 of them. The major reason, according to Brown, is that the bill does not include any provisions for providing care to undocumented immigrants; something she believes still needs to be addressed, by the state if not the federal government.  

Brown expressed excitement at the $10 million the bill allocates for a Medicare/Medicaid center for innovation, designed to reevaluate how hospitals care for patients in an effort to align the finance and service sides of hospital's work - a goal she sees as paramount in the struggle for reform of the health care delivery system.

(click here to watch LaRay Brown's presentation)

Joseph Berardo, CEO and President, MagnaCare

aarpJoe Berardo is CEO and President of MagnaCare, a company that offers health care solutions and provider networks to self-insured organizations, commercial insurers, and municipalities amongst others.  Berardo spoke about how the law would affect insurance carriers.  Berardo offered the only dissenting voice of the morning, calling President Obama's bill "bad" because it fails to adequately address cost control issues. At the same time he characterized the bill a social victory insofar as it will cover people previously uninsured.  

Berardo expressed the opinion that, looking at how the bill is financed, he expects health care costs to go up not down as a result of the new law. He also expressed his fear that adding 15 million individuals to the Medicaid rolls will overflow the system and that there is very little in the bill to address the near-term costs of this expansion. Berardo did conclude by expressing his support for a regulated system and his desire to work with hospitals to incentivize more preventative care.

(click here to watch Joseph Berardo's presentation)

Elisabeth Benjamin, VP of Health Initiatives,
Community Service Society of New York 
BenjaminElisabeth Benjamin talked about how the bill will affect the uninsured and provide significant financial help to the state.  In New York, Benjamin noted, there are 2.7 million uninsured individuals.  Under the new law, she explained, 1 million of those individuals will go into Medicaid, for which NYS will receive $30 billion in federal funding.  Another million will go onto the exchanges, for which NYS will receive $25 billion over the next 10 years.

(click here to watch Elisabeth Benjamin's presentation)

Catherine Abate, President, Community Healthcare Network

AbateCatherine Abate discussed the impact on community health care centers. Abate asserted that community health centers are the lynchpin of health care in the U.S., and that a vast majority of the 32 million individuals who will now have insurance thanks to the new law will rely on these centers for primary care. Part of the reason for this is that 40% of the individual's who use these centers are currently uninsured. Another reason is that these centers put a large emphasis on providing preventative care and screenings, saving both patients and hospitals time and money.
Abate concluded by noting that she is not altogether happy with the way reproductive rights issues were dealt with in the bill, explaining that due to the Nelson Amendment abortions will not be available through the insurance exchange and suggested that women will be frustrated that they have to write two checks to obtain this service.

(click here to watch Catherine Abate's presentation)

(click here to watch the Panel Question & Answer session)

BALCONY offers a special thanks to our sponsoring members: New York State United Teachers, American Cancer Society, MagnaCare, Medicare Rights Center, the Small Business Majority, Community Healthcare Network, AARP, New York State Nurses Association, WCBS News Radio 880, Metro New York Health Care, Universal American, Milberg LLP, NYS Health Foundation, McKenna Long & Aldridge, Saratoga Capital Management, and the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce.

The event was held at:

Hard Rock Cafe | 43rd Street and Broadway | New York City


Bruce Ventimiglia, Co-Chair
Alan Lubin, Co-Chair


Symposium Participating Organizations
Medicare Rights Center
Medicare Rights Center

American Cancer Society
American Cancer Society


Small Business Majority
Small Business Majority

NYS Health Foundation
NYS Health Foundation

McKenna Long and Aldridge
McKenna Long and Aldridge

Community Health Network
Community Health Network

NYS Nurses Assoc
NYS Nurses Assoc

Saratoga Capital Management
Saratoga Capital Management


WCBS NewsRadio880
WCBS NewsRadio880

Universal American
Universal American


Metro NY Healthcare
Metro NY Healthcare


WHY Hunger

NY Chamber of Commerce
Greater New York Chamber of Commerce
at Madison Square Garden Business Fair.

Small Business Fair Opens at 8:00 a.m.
BALCONY hosts Health Care Panel.

For more information, click here: Fair Flyer
A Time for Change
An International Health Care Conference

BALCONY is a sponsor of the
international health care conference

"A Time for Change:
Restructuring America's Health Care
Delivery System"

May 11-12 in New York City

Designed for health care practitioners, management and labor leaders, researchers and policymakers, the event is being organized by
Cornell University's ILR School.

Click here for more information:  Cornell

The Hard Rock Café for renting their space for this special event...
Content Critical for donation of the forum program...
WHY Hunger, a supporting organization.
And all those who attended BALCONY's April 14th Symposium on The Status of Health Care Reform. 
BALCONY was pleased to bring together experts from business and labor to find common ground on the newly enacted Affordable Health Care for America law. 

BALCONY Thanks Raffle Item Donors: Joseph Stamm, Medreview ; David Pollak, McKenna Long & Aldridge; Rebecca Gardner, WCBSNewsradio 880; Alan Handell, Content Critical.

And, BALCONY thanks its staff and others for their hard work on this event:
Nicholas Kapustinsky, Research and Communications
Diane Masters, Development Administrator
Kevin R. Weaver, Web Developer

Jeanne Suggs, Suggs Media Productions

Michael Wehrhahn, GSPNetwork

Scott Levenson, The Advance Group


BALCONY, the Business and Labor Coalition of New York, represents more than 1,000 New York businesses, labor unions, and trade associations. BALCONY seeks common ground in the public policy debate in New York to spur economic development through the adoption of business/union friendly, socially responsible common sense laws that maintain and improve the quality of life for working New Yorkers.

BALCONY is a 501C4
Contributions are not tax deductible.

633 Third Avenue, 16th Floor
New York, NY 10017
(212) 219-7777

Director, Lou Gordon: loug@balconynewyork.com