Adrienne A. Harris: Transcript of the Testimony Delivered to the Legislative Fiscal Committees on the State Budget Health on February 8, 2022.


Good afternoon, Chairs Krueger, Weinstein, Breslin, Cahill, Rivera, and Gottfried; Ranking Members; and all distinguished Members of the State Senate and Assembly.

Thank you for inviting me to testify today. My name is Adrienne Harris, and I am privileged to have been confirmed two weeks ago as Superintendent of the Department of Financial Services (DFS). DFS's broad mandate is to protect New York consumers, strengthen New York's financial services industries, and safeguard our markets from fraud and other illegal activity. The Department regulates the activities of approximately 3,000 banking, insurance, and other financial institutions with assets totaling more than $9 trillion, including over 1,200 depository and non-depository financial service providers, and nearly 1,800 insurance companies. DFS fosters a safe and sound financial services market, while also providing important consumer protections. The Department's operating expenses are assessed to industry under section 206 of the Financial Services Law.

As Superintendent, I know that market growth and consumer protection are not competing concepts but must align to ensure that your constituents receive the best financial services in the nation, including health care coverage. I look forward to continuing to work with Governor Hochul, the Legislature, and other agencies to advance policies that support opportunity and access to quality, affordable health care for all New Yorkers. Today, I will provide an overview of the insurance-focused health care initiatives in this year's Executive Budget, and I look forward to your questions. But first, I would like to say a few words about our continuing battle against the pandemic.

As you know all too well, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a great toll on our fellow New Yorkers, with a disproportionate impact on marginalized communities. New Yorkers suffered through waves of infections and heartbreaking daily death tolls. The pandemic also caused widespread financial hardship. Business owners struggled to keep the lights on. Many workers lost their jobs. Everyone's mental well-being suffered.

As new, unexpected challenges emerge, DFS works diligently to serve New Yorkers. We coordinate daily with the Department of Health, insurers, hospitals, physicians, consumers, and other stakeholders to make sure people have access to the care and insurance coverage they need. We are still learning about and adjusting to this new world, and there is still more we can and must do to address these new challenges and the new normal in which we find ourselves.

As we continue to deal with the pandemic, addressing mental health and substance use disorder is a top priority. DFS has been fighting hard to ensure that New Yorkers have the mental health and substance use disorder treatment coverage they deserve - the coverage that they paid for. In 2020, DFS promulgated one of the most comprehensive mental health and substance use disorder parity regulations in the nation, requiring insurers to establish a parity compliance program, and we are conducting examinations to ensure their compliance. When insurers are not compliant, DFS will bring enforcement actions as I did just a couple of months ago, where we were able to assess a penalty, require remediation, and put money back in New Yorkers' pockets. The money from the penalties is reinvested in initiatives that will support further mental health parity implementation and enforcement on behalf of New Yorkers.

I'm excited to talk to you today about Governor Hochul's ambitious agenda to improve the quality and accessibility of health care for all New Yorkers and I want to...

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