This LCD Soundsystem song perfectly captures my feelings today. If you know the song, you know it’s about the city. But today, I’m applying it to the whole darn state.
Let’s start with this fact: New York’s statute of limitations law prevents misdiagnosed cancer patients from suing for medical malpractice. The New York Daily News tells this story today:
Elissa McMahon felt like she was trapped in a bad dream when she found out that she had stage 4 uterine cancer almost two years ago.
But the nightmare quickly got worse — McMahon learned a Manhattan hospital pathologist had failed to spot the cancerous lesions in 2012.
Compounding her hardship, by the time she received the grim diagnosis, the 21/2-year window to file a medical malpractice suit had passed.
Unlike almost every other state in the nation, New York’s law says the statute of limitations - the time within which a lawsuit must be filed - begins running at the time of injury as opposed to when the harm (like cancer) is “discovered”. Legislation in Albany to fix this is called “Lavern’s Law.” But, explains the Daily News:
The bill, passed by the Assembly and supported by Gov. Cuomo, died in the Republican-controlled state Senate last year. A coalition of nearly three dozen organizations is pushing legislators to revive the bill this year before the legislative session ends June 16.
Just as bad, that very same state Senate is currently blocking a bill to change the statute of limitations for child sex abuse victims. There have been a rash of revelations (here, here) about such abuse in NY State, but most victims can do nothing about it under current law, which wipes out their rights after they turn 23.
Finally, last night Frontline ran a devastating NPR/PBS program (featuring our great friend, J. Robert Hunter) about the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy in 2012, called “Business Of Disaster: Insurance Firms Profited $400 Million After Sandy.” After a year-long investigation, journalists found “a complex system in which private companies profit and homeowners and clients suffer.” Specifically, under the National Flood Insurance Program, which private insurance companies service,
Thousands of homeowners across New York and New Jersey were underpaid. Some got just a fraction of their policies.…
[I]n the months and years after Superstorm Sandy, hundreds of homeowners in New York and New Jersey filed lawsuits claiming that not only were they shortchanged by their flood insurance, but they were cheated.
Hunter says that's partly because the program doesn't charge homeowners enough in premiums to adequately fund itself. But, he says, it's also because FEMA pays the private insurance companies too much money. At least a third of the money that homeowners put into the program gets paid to them, he says.
Last year, government data show, that came to more than $1 billion in fees.
Hunter says with so much money going to insurance companies, it's that much harder to cover storm losses, or save up to help pay for the really big ones, like Katrina or Sandy.
"In the long run you're going to lose money," he says. "And you're going to lose a lot of money, and that's what happening."
Now, when a big storm hits, taxpayers mostly pick up the tab, and the insurance companies get paid, regardless.
"It's a sweetheart deal" for flood insurance firms, Hunter says. "[The companies] like it. They have no risk. It's just doing what they normally do; they just tack it onto the homeowners policy and they make some money."
Exactly how much, however, could help explain why thousands of homeowners believe they were shorted.
C’mon New York. Aren't we better than this?