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Metroland: Beyond Obamacare

By Ali Hibbs, June 6.

Last week, the New York State Assembly passed legislation that would create a publicly funded single-payer health care system in New York.

The bill, which passed 89-47, would essentially bypass insurance companies altogether by funding a state program capable of covering New York’s health care costs. Paid for by a progressive payroll tax (80 percent paid by employers, 20 percent by employees), the system would have premiums, deductibles, or co-payments for patients; instead, the state would directly pay providers collectively negotiated rates for services.

Based on an analysis by a University at Massachusetts–Amherst professor, the longtime chairman of the Assembly Health Committee and the bill’s chief sponsor, Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan), has suggested that a single-payer system in New York could save taxpayers more than $45 billion a year by getting rid of insurance companies and lowering administrative costs. Gottfried has been introducing the bill for more than 20 years, but this is the first time since 1992 that it has been brought to the floor for a vote. The final tally on Wednesday was overwhelmingly reflective of party affiliation—Democrats in favor, Republicans opposed.

Republican arguments against the bill include allegations that it amounts to socialized health care and that it would disrupt coverage for those who are currently covered by Medicare and Medicaid, programs that would be replaced on the state level under the new legislation. In response to the latter concern, Gottfried has said that a waiver system would be used to ensure that New Yorkers eligible for Medicare, Medicaid and Child Health Plus programs would still receive applicable federal funds.

“We deserve to be able to go to the doctor when we need to,” Gottfried told Metroland earlier this year. “Without worrying about if we can afford it. We deserve not to worry when we get a medical bill or an insurance statement we can’t figure out. We deserve health coverage for all of us, at a price based on our ability to pay, not what the market will bear. . . . [This bill could] save New York consumers billions of dollars a year, while giving everyone access to the doctor and medicine they need, without financial obstacles and with freedom of choice, health-care security, and financial security.”

Senate leaders are not likely to bring the bill to the floor before the legislative session ends this month.