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Hochul says she'll push for consumer protection measures in 2024

Governor Kathy Hochul on January 2announced consumer protections that she intends to pursue in 2024.
Susan Watts
/
Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul
Gov. Kathy Hochul announces on Jan. 2 several consumer protections that she intends to pursue in 2024.

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Tuesday announced steps for greater consumer protections as part of her 2024 agenda.

She said the proposals would protect students paying off loans, increase temporary disability payments and curb medical debt.

Hochul said she’ll ask the State Legislature to close some loopholes in existing laws to make it easier to punish predatory business practices.

“I’m proposing the first major expansion to New York's consumer protection laws in more than 40 years,” she said. “That would make unfair and abusive practices illegal and give the Attorney General's Office a path to punish predatory operators.”

Hochul said New York is one of only seven states that does not provide those protections.

The governor was joined by New York Attorney General Letitia James. She said the law would give her the tools to prosecute numerous instances of consumer fraud, including what’s known as deed theft, when scammers take the title to someone’s home without the homeowner’s knowledge or approval. James said the changes could also help her prosecute fraudsters who prey on the elderly.

“Like marketing that exploits unsophisticated or vulnerable consumers or children,” she said. “Predatory lending practices like student loan services that intentionally steer borrowers to the most expensive loan plans.”

Hochul said other proposals include helping people with diabetes avoid sky-high prices for insulin by banning insurance companies from requiring copays for the medicine.

The lobby group for the state’s health care plans objected, saying that while the idea is “well-intentioned,” it does nothing to address “the increasing escalation and exorbitant prices drug companies charge.”

Eric Linzer with the New York Health Plan Association said in a statement that the change would mean everyone would have to pay higher insurance premiums.

The governor said she wants to raise a 35-year-old cap on weekly temporary disability payments that restrict maximum weekly payments to just $170 a week. She said the new plan increases the amount to what is now offered for temporary family leave.

“We're going to tie it to the statewide average weekly wage, just as we do for family leave. And that's going to be a dramatic increase,” Hochul said. “It will be 67% of the weekly average for the state of New York. Which comes out to about $1,250 a week instead of $170.”

And finally, Hochul said she’s proposing legislation to protect low-income New Yorkers from being sued for medical debt and limit the amount of monthly payments and interest that health providers can charge to repay the money.

The governor said the measures represent the “first plank” of her State of the State agenda. She will make her full presentation on Jan. 9. She said in the meantime, she intends to roll out more proposals affecting education and public health in the coming days.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for the New York Public News Network, composed of a dozen newsrooms across the state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.