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PRESS RELEASE – Doctors, Nurses, Small Business, & Labor Rally for Single Payer; Heastie Supports Bill

Doctors, Nurses, Small Business, Patients & Labor Rally and Lobby for Universal Healthcare

Speaker Heastie Supports Bringing “New York Health Act” to Assembly Floor for Vote

 Bill Would Save $45 Billion, Provide Coverage to All New Yorkers

Hundreds of health care professionals, patients, small business owners, and representatives of organized labor held a rally and lobby day in Albany today in support of the “New York Health Act” universal healthcare bill (A. 5062/S. 3525). New York Health would provide universal, comprehensive health care to all New Yorkers without premiums, co-pays, deductibles, or limited provider networks. According to an analysis by UMass-Amherst Economics Department Chair Gerald Friedman, New York Health would save New Yorkers more than $45 billion with 98% of New Yorkers paying less for their health care than they do today.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie says he will work to bring the bill to the Assembly floor for a vote this session.

“New Yorkers deserve better,” said Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried, Assembly sponsor of the bill. “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 whether an insurance company agrees. We deserve health coverage for all of us, at a price based on our ability to pay, not what the market will bear. The New York Health Act would cover all of us, without deductibles, co-pays or restricted networks and out-of-network charges, and save New Yorkers $45 billion a year.”

“All over New York State, people are clamoring for a health care system that is equitable, comprehensive and patient-centered—one that truly cares for them as human beings without reference to actuarial charts, prior approvals and prohibitive pricing,” said Senator Bill Perkins, Senate sponsor of the bill. “Our New York Health bill will finally put “patients before profits,” while vastly improving our healthcare delivery system, saving the state billions of dollars, and finally recognizing that the greatest wealth in our society is our collective health.”

According to Professor Friedman’s study, the New York Health Act 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 bulk purchasing of pharmaceuticals and medical devices. Even after expanding coverage to all New Yorkers and increasing low Medicaid reimbursements, the Act would generate a 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 profiteering, administrative waste and inefficiency, mandatory local Medicaid spending – affect our local taxes.  The facts are undeniable: Enactment of 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.”

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.

 “Why do we consider it “health care reform” to force the working poor to buy terrible, publicly-subsidized, overpriced health insurance?” asked Matt Funiciello, bread baker and owner of Rock Hill Bakehouse.  “Why not just give us the health care we already pay for? We spend about $6,000 per American to live in this crisis – more than enough to cover quality care for everyone, and twice what Canadians pay.  Small business owners and workers need health care and we lack the resources to buy insurance.  Enacting Single-Payer legislation would give us the coverage we need and end the annual theft of public money that has been going on for decades.”

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.”

 “Nurses and physicians take an oath before we can practice: a key part of that oath is to ‘Do No Harm,” said Judy Sheridan-Gonzales, President, NYS Nurses Association.  “This profit-based, irrational system can be harmful to our patients.  That is why, as nurses, we are passionate about supporting the New York Health Act – to make patient care the priority and ensure the best care for all New Yorkers.  The question is, will our lawmakers move forward on this essential measure?”

 “The New York Health Act removes financial barriers to care – the co-pays and deductibles – that often keep 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.”

“I’ve worked very hard in medical school to learn how to take care of patients, not to spend my time and resources fighting insurance companies that interfere with clinical decisions,” said Hannah Moreira, medical student at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “I have witnessed the frustrations many health care providers experience in providing quality care to their patients. Our patients deserve a just and equitable health care system that puts patients over profits, and they need it now!”

 “In May 2009 my 17-year-old daughter Nadine was diagnosed with leukemia. I was lucky enough to be able to pay for an early test,” said Barbara Dyskant of Rochester. “She survived but is in lifelong danger and needs lifelong monitoring. I worry every day for her future and for those of young people who wouldn’t be able to afford the care she depends on. Our “healthcare” system is neither healthy nor caring; We’re one of the only “civilized” countries without universal healthcare.  Please, for all people, pass the New York Health Bill.”

New York Health has strong labor support including a new endorsement by the United Federation of Teachers. It has been endorsed by leading union and health care organizations including the Working Families Party, NYS AFL-CIO, SEIU 1199, NYS Nurses Association, Communications Workers of America, Amalgamated Transit Union Locals 1056 and 1179, United Auto Workers 9 & 9A, UFCW Local 1500, Capital District Area Labor Federation, Local 32BJ SEIU, NYSUT, Doctors Council SEIU, Committee of Interns and Residents, NYS Academy of Family Physicians, NYS American Academy of Pediatrics, Citizen Action, League of Women Voters, the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, & Asian Legislative Caucus, and 98 New York state legislators including 78 Members of the Assembly.

“The employer-based system of providing healthcare is eroding, covering a smaller percentage of New Yorkers each year,” said Malcolm Olaker, Poughkeepsie nursing home worker and 1199 SEIU member.  “Health care is about saving and improving the quality of lives, and the people of New York deserve nothing less. In a just society, all people are entitled to basic health care.  That’s why we are all here today from different walks of life: patients, healthcare providers, caregivers and community members, supporting single payer health care.”