From Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, lead sponsor of the New York Health Act:
Assembly Passes Universal Health Care Bill
Historic Vote Makes It “Truly Achievable Goal” Says Sponsor
On Wednesday, May 27, the New York State Assembly passed the “New York Health Act” universal health care bill (A. 5062/S. 3525) by a vote of 92 to 52. New York Health would provide universal, comprehensive health care to all New Yorkers without premiums, co-pays, deductibles, or limited provider networks.
“Assembly passage of New York Health will elevate the issue on the public agenda and change the conversation from ‘it’s a great idea that will never happen’ to a truly achievable goal,” said Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried, lead Assembly sponsor of the bill.
The last time a universal health care bill was on the Assembly floor was 1992. It passed with a solid majority. “But then, the focus of reform shifted to Washington. While the federal Affordable Care Act has done a lot of good, it’s clear that a lot of problems remain – and if we want to fix them, we have to do it ourselves,” Mr. Gottfried said.
According to an analysis by University of Massachusetts/Amherst Economics Department Chair Gerald Friedman, 98% of New Yorkers would spend less for health coverage and health care under New York Health than they do today. New York would save over $70 billion by eliminating health insurance company administration and profit; reducing health care provider and employer administrative costs; and capturing savings from negotiating prices of pharmaceuticals and medical devices. Even after expanding coverage to all New Yorkers; eliminating deductibles, co-pays, and out-of-network charges; and increasing low Medicaid reimbursements, New York Health would generate net savings of $45 billion.
“Funding and administering health insurance is the primary uncontrolled burden on local budgets,” said Albany City Treasurer Darius Shahinfar. “The question for me is how these hidden costs of health care – insurance company profit, administrative waste and inefficiency, mandatory local Medicaid spending – affect our local taxes. The facts are undeniable: New York Health, based on my conservative estimates, would reduce City and School District tax rates by at least 20% and could eliminate many County property taxes entirely. Getting full health care coverage while cutting property taxes seems like a no-brainer to me.”
In December and January, the Assembly Health Committee held hearings on the bill in Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, New York City, Mineola, and Albany. The Committee heard testimony from almost 200 witnesses including New Yorkers with insurance who are bankrupted by their deductibles; patients who lose trusted providers due to restricted networks; doctors who spend hours on the phone negotiating with insurance bureaucrats; and medical students who “signed up for medical school, not business school.”
“Our healthcare system is fundamentally damaged. Too many parties are in it to make a buck off the misfortune of the sick and injured. That’s why NY needs to create a single payer healthcare system that cares for all patients without the interference of predatory insurance companies and other profit-driven enterprises seeking to drain the system,” said Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, an RN at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx and president of NYSNA. “Only under a system of universal access to care based on the highest quality for everyone – not on ability to pay, social status, or any other demographic impediment – will there be enough resources directed to the proper care for patients.”
The New York Health Act removes financial barriers to health care – the co-pays and deductibles – that keep some of my patients from seeing me when they need to,” said Oliver Fein, MD, Chair of Physicians for a National Health Program-NY Metro. “I also wouldn’t have to worry about my patients affording the medications, lab tests or consultations that they need. I wouldn’t have to waste countless hours fighting insurance companies to approve necessary medical care. The New York Health Act is a universal, single payer system that would guarantee equal access to care that is funded fairly – something every New Yorker and resident of this country deserves.”
New York Health would be a boon to business. Employer spending on health care eats up a median 12.8% of payroll costs on health insurance, up more than 50% in a decade, with small businesses spending even higher percentages. According to the Friedman study, New York Health could be funded through an income assessment averaging just 8.1% of payroll.
“New Yorkers deserve better,” said Assembly Member Gottfried. “We should be able to go to the doctor when we need to, without worrying whether we can afford it. We should choose our doctors and hospitals without worrying about network restrictions. We deserve health coverage for all of us, paid for based on our ability to pay, not what the market will bear. I’m proud the Assembly has passed the New York Health Act, and I look forward to working with a great community of advocates including medical professionals, medical students, organized labor, and Senate sponsor Bill Perkins, to enact it into law.”
New York Health has been endorsed by the NYS Academy of Family Physicians, NYS American Academy of Pediatrics, NYS Nurses Association, Committee of Interns and Residents, Doctors Council SEIU, NY chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program, SEIU 1199, NYS AFL-CIO, Communications Workers of America, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1056 and 1179, United Auto Workers 9 & 9A, UFCW Local 1500, Capital District Area Labor Federation, Local 32BJ SEIU, NYSUT, United Federation of Teachers, Working Families Party, Green Party, Citizen Action, StateWide Senior Action Council, NYPIRG, League of Women Voters, and others.