There is no doubt that health insurance is one of the pressing issues of our time. For many New Yorkers, protecting their family’s health is a monumental challenge. While it is tough enough to survive the economic hardship of taking a few days off work, the decision to see a doctor may be wrapped up in the question of whether it can be afforded out of pocket, by a family that has no health insurance coverage. When there are children involved, that decision is made all the more difficult.
In the months since I was named Commissioner of the TLC, I have learned firsthand that the aforementioned problems are particularly acute for those in the taxicab and for-hire vehicle industries; industries I have pledged to help in every way I can. That is why the TLC has worked so hard to get the message out about HealthStat. HealthStat is made up of three key components: Child Health Plus A or Child Health Plus B, and Family Health Plus, one of which may be the right way for you and your family to receive – at no cost – important medical and dental services, including doctor visits, eye exams and eyeglasses, mental health services, prescription drugs, hospital care and more.
What is the TLC connection? As you know, the TLC has worked diligently to help the industries we regulate to recover from the devastating events of September 11th. But even more basically than that, it is the TLC’s ultimate goal to strengthen and professionalize its regulated industries so that people make an informed decision to become a taxicab or for-hire vehicle driver because it is their choice of a career, and not their choice as merely a job. I believe that one of the key ways in which to help people make such a choice is to introduce health insurance into the equation, something that has unfortunately been lacking in our regulated industries. Thanks to a close partnership with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, which administers the HealthStat program, and the Mayor’s Office of Health Insurance Access, the TLC can help people make the positive decision to join its licensed ranks, but more importantly, this program can help people to give their children the medical care they need and deserve.
It was for precisely that reason that I participated in a whirlwind tour of the five boroughs last week, visiting Black Car and livery bases in each borough with a HealthStat representative to help people learn how to sign up and start receiving benefits. We’ll be visiting more bases, as well as taxicab fleets, leasing agents and the airports in the future to keep this crucial information flowing.
But for those of you reading this column, please – call 212-863-7900 and find out if HealthStat is right for you and your family. It may be the most important call you ever make.
I am pleased to announce that the TLC’s satellite facility in Staten Island will soon be open for business. While I will announce all the details in my next column, you may also keep your eyes on our web pages at www.NYC.gov/taxi, and in the pages of this and other industry publications for more information.
I would also like to take a moment to remind our licensed medallion drivers that the TLC’s rules require that they have and use E-ZPass for all toll crossings. Further, drivers must remember to pass along the E-ZPass-associated discount to passengers, i.e. trips through the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel and across the Triborough Bridge are $3 instead of the cash toll of $3.50.
An equally important reminder is due on the issue of the TLC’s prohibition of wireless telephone use while driving. While the New York State law prohibiting hand-held wireless telephone use for passenger vehicles has caused some confusion among taxicab and FHV drivers, in that it allows hands-free devices for the drivers of non-TLC licensed passenger vehicles, it should be clearly understood that hands-free devices cannot be used by TLC-licensed, professional drivers while driving. In short, using a hand-held phone while driving will put you at risk for both an NYPD summons and a TLC summons, and using a hands-free device while driving will put you at risk of a TLC summons. Not only is it not worth the risk, but your passenger deserves nothing less than your full attention.
Last but not least, I just wanted everyone to know that we are very close to announcing the details of a TLC plan which will offer a discount on select insurance company premiums for every licensee that is certified under our criteria as a "Safe Driver." Believe me, it will be worth the wait.
Until next time, God bless…...