Governor Cuomo Accepts Recommendations of the
Blue-Ribbon Reimagine New York Commission

March 31, 2021

As you may recall, last year the NYS Council was invited to meet with the members of the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on the issue of the future of telehealth.  The Final Report of the Commission is linked in the third line of the Press Release (below).

Unfortunately we continue to hear that there are interest groups lobbying against a requirement that ALL payers be required to reimburse for telehealth services on par with face to face services.  Specifically, we have heard that health plans in the commercial / private health plan markets continue to weigh in in opposition. Stand by.

For Immediate Release: 3/31/2021 GOVERNOR ANDREW M. CUOMO


Reimagine New York Commission Submits Final Report Outlining Innovative Reforms to Expand Access to Internet Connectivity, Telehealth and Work

Governor Cuomo’s 2021 Executive Budget Includes First-in-the-Nation Affordable Internet Guarantee for Low-Income Families and Comprehensive Telehealth Reform Recommended by the Commission

Governor Cuomo Also Announces Launch of Affordable Broadband Options Portal, Telehealth Provider Training Portal and the Reimagine New York Mental Health Outreach Campaign

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today accepted the final recommendations of the blue-ribbon Reimagine New York Commission across its three focus areas: connectivity, telehealth and work. The report, “Action Plan for a Reimagined New York,” highlights key initiatives that are already underway through innovative public-private partnerships as well as major legislation that Governor Cuomo included in his 2021 Executive Budget, including the first-in-the-nation guarantee of affordable internet for low-income families and legislation to expand and improve access to telehealth. The Commission’s report is available here

“As we continue to reopen New York State and re-imagine New York in our new normal, we are taking advantage of this moment to implement what we’ve learned and build our State back better than ever before,” Governor Cuomo said. “The recommendations set forth by the Blue-Ribbon Reimagine New York Commission vastly improves our current situation and better prepares us for the future with outside-the-box thinking and creative solutions that will enrich New Yorkers for years to come.”

Commission Chair, Co-Founder of Schmidt Futures and Former CEO of Google Eric Schmidt said, “This Commission was tasked with leveraging technology to build back a better and more equitable New York, and I’m confident the recommendations in our Action Plan—especially those that are already being implemented—meet that test. Our most important recommendation is this: for New York to lead the nation in both prosperity and equity, universal connectivity is a prerequisite. Affordable broadband is essential to advance education, secure the economic success of residents and businesses, provide healthcare, and enable all New Yorkers to thrive. This work is just the start of reimagining New York. Those who take up the mantle to see these initiatives through—from government to private organizations to residents—will be critical to realizing a state that is more prosperous than ever before.”

The Reimagine New York Commission’s final report recommends initiatives already underway to build back a better and more resilient New York. In partnership with the State, philanthropy, non-profit organizations, and businesses have launched a Pathways Pledge to promote equitable hiring with 17 of New York’s largest employers, developed a telehealth facilitator pilot to improve access to telehealth among vulnerable populations, and supported the creation of the  Entrepreneurship Navigator to mentor budding entrepreneurs, among other actions to help New Yorkers. Just last week, the Governor announced the launch of ConnectED NY, a program supported by Schmidt Futures and the Ford Foundation, to address the growing inequities among students facing a lack of internet access in low-income communities. It will help connect approximately 50,000 K-12 students across the state.

The report also underscores the need for the New York State Legislature to pass critical legislation included in Governor Cuomo’s 2021 Executive Budget, including the first-in-the-nation guarantee of affordable internet for low-income families, reforms to expand and improve access to telehealth and scholarships to low-income workers for workforce training programs:

  • The report finds that equal access to high-quality, affordable internet connectivity is a prerequisite to building back a better and more equitable New York. In January, as part of his nation-leading 2021 connectivity agenda, Governor Cuomo proposed first-in-the-nation legislation requiring internet service providers to offer an affordable $15 per month high speed internet plan to low-income households. Currently, a basic high-speed internet plan costs, on average, more than $50 a month. The State will also require providers to advertise this option to ensure programs reach underserved populations across the State. 
  • At the recommendation of the Reimagine New York Commission, the Governor has also proposed comprehensive telehealth reform legislation in his Executive Budget to help New Yorkers take advantage of telehealth and modernize outdated regulatory restrictions. New York State will work to expand telehealth access through Legislative and administrative tools.
  • Governor Cuomo’s Executive Budget also includes new workforce training scholarships to move into well-paid jobs at a time when COVID-19 has displaced many workers and sectors. Like the successful Excelsior Scholarship which launched in 2017, this program will make high-quality credential programs free for low-income New Yorkers, empowering them to earn credentials that will lead to jobs in high-demand industries. This program will be complemented by a proposed $50 million in new workforce programs and the expansion of SUNY’s free online learning programs to residents across the State.

Additionally, Governor Cuomo today announced the launch of three new initiatives informed by Commission recommendations:

Affordable Broadband Portal

Governor Cuomo today launched the Affordable Broadband Portal—first announced in the Governor’s 2021 State of the State—to help New Yorkers find available, affordable broadband programs in their area, which have historically been difficult to find and enroll in. This website also includes critical information about the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit Program ($50/month subsidy for broadband service, plus a one-time discount of up to $100 on computers and tablets) and consumer surveys so New Yorkers can take advantage of the programs that serve low-income residents and share their experience. This is one part of the State’s effort to make affordable broadband more widely accessible. 

Senior Advisor at Providence Equity Partners and Co-Chair of the Reimagine New York Commission’s Connectivity Working Group Richard Parsons said, “Broadband affordability is critical to achieving the Reimagine Commission’s objective of universal connectivity. The Affordable Broadband Portal will help New Yorkers find local, affordable internet options, and consumer surveys will empower New Yorkers to report their own experiences with broadband availability, pricing, and speeds. These tools are an important step toward a world where connectivity is not only universally accessible but also universally affordable.”

New York State Telehealth Training Portal

Governor Cuomo also today announced the launch of a telehealth training program with the aim of developing, improving and maintaining the telehealth competencies of medical and behavioral health providers across the state. The new portal—first announced in the Governor’s 2021 State of the State—is a collaboration among Stony Brook Medicine, the Reimagine New York Commission, Northeast Telehealth Resource Center and the New York State Department of Health, and serves as an open-access, interdisciplinary gateway to deliver telehealth education to the healthcare workforce across New York State.

Led by the Northeast Telehealth Resource Center under the guidance of a Telehealth Education Advisory Group and regional subject matter experts, this portal will provide training modules that address the full scope of telehealth program implementation, management, and practice, with topics ranging from telehealth technology to provider etiquette best practices. Healthcare providers can start taking the initial courses here now; additional modules and tools will continue to roll out in the future.

President of SUNY Stony Brook and Member of the Reimagine New York Commission’s Telehealth Working Group Maurie McInnis said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored how essential telehealth is to delivering effective, accessible healthcare for all New Yorkers. We must invest in infrastructure to train and equip medical and behavioral health providers with the resources they need to confidently use this important tool in care delivery. As the Commission found through conversations with providers across the state, we can only unlock the full benefits of telehealth if we support those entrusted with delivering it—and the open-access Telehealth Training Portal is a vital component of that support.”

Reimagine New York Mental Health Outreach Campaign

Informed by the Reimagine Commission, Governor Cuomo also announced today that New York State’s Office of Mental Health will partner with private organizations across the state to launch the Reimagine Mental Health Outreach Campaign to increase awareness of virtual mental health support resources. 10 partners have committed to the campaign to increase its reach to over 100,000 New Yorkers.

This campaign is particularly focused on supporting communities that disproportionately face unmet mental health needs, including low-income, older, rural, and immigrant communities and communities of color.

President of Cornell University and Co-Chair of the Reimagine New York Commission’s Telehealth Working Group Martha Pollack said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has had an enormous impact on the mental health and wellbeing of New Yorkers, particularly in traditionally underserved and vulnerable communities. We can build upon the outreach by organizations that are already doing profound work in our communities to make all residents aware of available virtual support resources. This initiative is an important outcome of the Reimagine Commission’s efforts to improve healthcare access, and Cornell is proud to join the Office of Mental Health as a campaign partner.”

About the Reimagine New York Commission

Created by Governor Andrew Cuomo and chaired by Eric Schmidt, Co-Founder of Schmidt Futures and former Google CEO and Executive Chairman, New York State’s 16-member blue-ribbon Commission developed recommendations that will leverage technology to build back a better and more resilient New York with greater opportunity for all. This Commission included educators, innovators, labor organizers, business leaders, and artists from across the state. To ensure the Commission’s outcomes reflected the diversity of the communities across New York State, the team held over 40 listening sessions, conducted hundreds of interviews, and organized three surveys to engage thousands of New Yorkers. Further details on the Commission’s work and its findings are available here.