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

Gov. Hochul unveils her consumer protection agenda in New York City Jan. 2, 2024.
Susan Watts/Office of Governor K/Susan Watts/Office of Governor K
Office of the Governor
Gov. Hochul unveils her consumer protection agenda in New York City Jan. 2, 2024.

Governor Kathy Hochul announced steps for greater consumer protections as part of her 2024 agenda. She says the proposals would protect everyone from students paying off loans, to increasing temporary disability payments, to curbing medical debt.

Hochul says she’ll ask the state legislature to close some loopholes in existing state 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,” the governor said. “ That would make unfair and abusive practices illegal and give the Attorney General's office a path to punish predatory operators.”

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

The governor was joined by New York’s Attorney General, Letitia James. She says 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 homeowners knowledge or approval. The AG says the changes could also help her prosecute fraudsters who prey on the elderly.

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

Hochul says other proposals include helping people with diabetes avoid sky high prices for insulin, by banning insurance companies from requiring co-pays 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 says in a statement that the change would mean everyone would have to pay higher insurance premiums.

The governor also says 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 says 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,” the governor said. “It will be 67 percent 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 says 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 says the measures represent the “first plank” of her State of the State agenda. She will make her full presentation on January 9th. She says 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 New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment and interviews newsmakers. Karen previously worked for WINS Radio, New York, and has written for numerous publications, including Adirondack Life and the Albany newsweekly Metroland.