Health and Patient Rights

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From helping New Yorkers protect themselves from skyrocketing drug prices and toxic chemicals, to advocating for visitors’ access to loved ones in the hospital, to ensuring accessibility to high quality and affordable medical care, NYPIRG takes on a broad range of topics to protect patient health.

NYPIRG’s health and patient rights work is currently focused on empowering healthcare consumers by:

  • Eliminating barriers to family support presence and participation in hospitals. Improving the opportunities for patients and their chosen family caregivers or trusted support persons to participate in and be active partners in care; ensuring a more supportive environment for the patient while in the hospital; making it easier for patients to keep track of health care information and decisions needed; and improving the transition from hospital to home or other care environments.
  • Protecting Patients. The National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine has documented that a staggering number of patient injuries and deaths result from poor quality medical care in hospitals. Two decades after this report, policymakers will continue to grapple with meeting the state’s goal of cutting the number of medical errors in half over the next few years. NYPIRG will push proposals to better identify hospitals’ medical outcomes, reduce prescription errors, better monitor office-based surgeries, ensure that providers’ medical skills are continually evaluated, and hold hospitals and physicians legally accountable for the care they deliver. See our resources and tips to help consumers choose a hospital with a good track record on keeping its patients safe from harm.
  • Supporting Health Insurance for All. Many of New York State’s 2.5 million previously-uninsured received relief through implementation of federal health care reform. Changes by the federal government have put those gains at risk. The state should begin to examine additional measures to help those left out of the coverage, including a system of “single payer" health insurance.
  • Bolstering Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention. Each year in New York, thousands of children are newly identified as “lead poisoned," having high levels of lead in their blood, indicating they are likely to suffer permanent IQ loss and other health problems. There is no treatment for lead poisoning; prevention is the only way to address the lead poisoning epidemic. NYPIRG will push the state to fully implement programs for safer lead paint remediation practices, better primary prevention, improved childhood lead screening and financial support for property owners to clean up lead problems.
  • Fighting Cancer. Despite raising $2.6 billion in tobacco revenues, New York State has been systematically dismantling its program to help smokers to quit and to keep kids from starting this deadly addiction. NYPIRG continues to urge that the state’s tobacco control program be funded at levels consistent with recommendations made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, NYPIRG continues to advocate for free cancer screening for those without health insurance and pushes to protect the public from the dangers posed by indoor tanning facilities.
  • Protecting Public Health Funding. In addition to the cuts to the tobacco control program, other important public health measures have faced budget threats. These life-savings programs must be bolstered by new state support.

Resources and Tips for Choosing Hospital Care

Getting good medical care isn’t a sure thing. While the vast majority of providers meet minimum requirements or better, many Americans are injured or killed by the medical care they receive. Positive medical care outcomes depend on carefully-coordinated care, communication, and policies designed to protect patients from harm. Not all hospitals are alike. Choosing the right hospital can be even more important than picking the right doctor. Below are several resources to guide consumers in their research:
  • The Leapfrog Group – This hospital survey is considered by many to be the “gold standard" for comparing hospitals on standards of safety, quality, and efficiency. Leapfrog collects voluntarily-provided surveys from nearly 2,000 hospitals and cross checks it with other publicly-released data and medical experts to issue annual rankings. Leapfrog then ranks the states based on the number of hospitals that have achieved an “A" ranking. This year, the state of Maine topped the list with nearly 70 percent of its hospitals earning an “A." Rounding out the top five this year were Hawaii, Oregon, Wisconsin and Idaho.
  • New York State Health Department Hospital Profiles – This site provides some useful information on the frequency of medical procedures that are performed at each hospitals.
  • New York State Health Department Doctor Profiles – This site allows patients access to background information on physicians.
  • US News & World Reports’ Annual Hospital Report – The rankings and ratings compare more than 4,500 medical centers nationwide.
  • Healthgrades.com - This site has comprehensive information on hospitals, such as quality ratings and affiliated physicians, and also has a database to help consumers find individual doctors.
In addition to researching the sources mentioned earlier, here are some additional ways patients can be vigilant right now:
  • Ask questions. Gain as much insight as you can from your health-care provider. Ask about the benefits, side effects and disadvantages of a recommended medication or procedure.
  • Seek a second opinion. If the situation warrants or if uncertainties exist, get a second opinion from another doctor: A good doctor will welcome confirmation of his/her diagnosis and resist any efforts to discourage the patient from learning more.
  • Bring along an advocate. Sometimes it is hard to process all the information by yourself. Bring a family member or a friend to your appointment — someone who can take notes and help you understand the information and ask questions.
A Rising Addiction Threat That Targets Kids  (WAMC, August 5, 2019)
Worried about your drinking water? A new site may provide some relief  (Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, August 2, 2019)
Enviros Ask NYS To Lower Recommended Levels For PFOA, PFOS  (WAMC, July 29, 2019)
NYC's slowest bus goes only 4.2 mph, which is slower than a manatee  (New York Post, July 23, 2019)
New York deserves stricter drinking water regulations  (Albany Times-Union, July 23, 2019)
Pokey Awards: This Staten Island bus averages less than 8 mph  (Staten Island Live, July 23, 2019)
Drinking water quality can affect home values in Nassau  (The Island Now, July 22, 2019)
Fund anti-smoking efforts  (Albany Times-Union, July 21, 2019)
Cuomo signs bill to combat climate change  (WXXI, July 18, 2019)
Climate change bill goes to Gov. Cuomo's desk  (Albany Times Union, July 16, 2019)
Cuomo approves legislation raising age to 21 for tobacco purchases  (Albany Times Union, July 16, 2019)
Editorial: Protect the water  (The Buffalo News, July 14, 2019)
How New York wants to improve the quality of your drinking water  (Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, July 12, 2019)
Long Island's Water Problem: Part Two  (Long Island Weekly)
NYS Department of Health limiting chemicals in water  (WIVB, July 10, 2019)
State health commissioner accepts recommendations for maximum contaminant levels in drinking water  (Mid-Hudson News, July 9, 2019)
State proposes new drinking water standards for 3 chemicals  (Newsday, July 9, 2019)
NYPIRG's Liz Moran reviews how environmental issues fared in the recent New York State Legislative session  (The Sanctuary for Independent Media, June 26, 2019)
Blair Horner discusses the 2019 legislative session  (The Sanctuary for Independent Media, June 24, 2019)
Water Contamination On Long Island  (Port Washington News, June 21, 2019)
News Archive
NYPIRG statement on proposed PFOA, PFOS, 1,4-dioxane MCLs
Tale of the Tape: NYPIRG’s 2019 Legislative Review
NYPIRG leads effort to respond to growing threat posed by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Joins with state lawmakers, health and environmental groups, and medical professionals to curb overuse and misuse of antibiotics
New Report: 20 Years of The Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement And the Failure To Adequately Fund Tobacco Control in New York
News Release: 20 Years of The Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement And the Failure To Adequately Fund Tobacco Control in New York
Governor's Budget Responds to New Yorkers' "Pent-Up Demands" For Action
2018 Trouble In Toyland Report
Release: NYPIRG Unveils 33rd Trouble In Toyland Report
A Guide To Prescription Drug Pricing In New York
NYPIRG Survey Finds Large Differences In Prescription Drug Prices Among New York State Pharmacies
Policy Paper: NYPIRG Examines New York State's Tobacco Control Program
NYPIRG Reviews Doctor Population In NYS
Report: Sick, Scared, and Separated from Loved Ones III
News Release: Sick, Scared, and Separated from Loved Ones III
Sick, Scared, and Separated from Loved Ones II: Hospital Visitation Progress and Problems
Sick, Scared, and Separated from Loved Ones: Hospital Visitation Policy Report
Tale of the Tape: NYPIRG 2017 Legislative Review
100+ Scientists Release Letter Urging AG to Pursue His ExxonMobil Investigation
New Analysis: State Documents Reveal ExxonMobil Pollution in New York State
NYPIRG Report: Still At Risk - Tobacco Marketing Around Brooklyn Schools
Reports & Features Archive