New Rochelle Patch: NY Assembly Passes Single-Payer Healthcare

By Michael Woyton, June 16

Albany has taken the first step toward giving New Yorkers a single-payer healthcare system. On Thursday, the state Assembly passed bill A4738, The New York Health Act would establish a program that would create a system of access to health insurance for New York residents.

The bill, which was sponsored by Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, D-75th Assembly District, is now going to be considered by the Senate. The Senate version, sponsored by Sen. Gustavo Rivera, D-33rd Senate District, is currently being considered by the Senate Health Committee.

If it comes to the floor of the Senate, it’s a toss up whether it could pass because, even though the Democrats have a one-seat majority in the 63-seat body, one Democrat — Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder — caucuses with the Republicans.

Under the bill, according to a press release from Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Gottfried, every New York resident would be eligible to enroll, regardless of age, income, wealth or employment, in the healthcare plan.

There would be no network restrictions, deductibles or co-pays.

Benefits would include comprehensive outpatient and inpatient medical care, primary and preventive care, prescription drugs, lab tests, rehab, dental, vision, hearing and all benefits required by current state insurance law, by publicly funded medical programs or provided by the state public employee package.

State funding would be combined with federal funds that are currently received for Medicare, Medicaid and Child Health Plus to create the New York Health Trust Fund.

Federal waivers would be sought by the state to completely fold those programs into New York Health.

Heastie said the local share of Medicaid funding would be ended, offering major property tax relief for New Yorkers.

There would be a payroll premium which would be progressively graduated so the percentage is higher on higher brackets of income.

People who are employed would pay 20 percent of the premium, with their employers paying 80 percent. Self-employed individuals would pay the full premium.

The bill is estimated to result in a $92 billion tax hike, according to healthleadersmedia.com.

A study of the bill by Gerald Friedman, professor and chairman of the Department of Economics at University of Massachusetts at Amherst, said the bill could save more than $70 billion in 2019, which is 25 percent of that year’s projected health care spending. He said the saving will increase over time.

Friedman said, while the largest savings would go to working households earning less than $75,000 a year, more than 98 percent of New York households would spend less on healthcare under the new legislation than they do now.

The plan would also be expected to create more than 200,000 new jobs, which would more than replace those lost in insurance and in billing.

Katie Robbins, director of the Campaign for New York Health, is in favor of the legislation.

“This proposal will guarantee healthcare to all New Yorkers, making healthcare a right and a public good,” she said. “There is evidence from around the world that similar systems provide quality care, control costs and are enormously popular with the public. We have the opportunity to transform the social contract and vastly improve health outcomes and quality of life for all residents of New York.”

The bill does have its detractors, though.

The Business Council of New York State did a poll on the single-payer healthcare system and found that it’s not that popular.

The survey, done in May, found that 54 percent of New Yorkers were opposed to a single-payer healthcare system.

Bill Hammond, health policy director at the Empire Center for Public Policy, gives the single-payer system a thumbs down.

He said the state would become a magnet for people from other states and countries in need of medical care, and would more than double the tax burden of a state that is already heavily taxed.

So what do you think about New York adopting a single-payer healthcare system? Vote in our highly unscientific poll and tell us what you think in the comments below.