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Times-Union: Senate Dems, Gottfried push single-payer system as GOP’s health plan moves forward

By Matthew Hamilton, March 8

As uncertainty over the future of the federal healthcare system persists, state Senate Democrats are proposing the creation of a single-payer public health system as part of a package of bills to help the state prep for potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

The legislation, touted by the Minority Democrats on Wednesday, would set up the frame work for a single-payer system, tasking state health officials with the actual implementation and devising the exact funding mechanism.

The bill, sponsored by Bronx Democratic Sen. Gustavo Rivera, has long been pushed by Assembly Health Committee Chairman Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan, though he hasn’t found success outside the Assembly since it first passed the chamber in 1992. It’s highly unlikely the Senate Democrats will see success either.

The Democrats’ three-bill package also includes legislation to codify the state insurance marketplace into law and to tweak Insurance Law to allow the exchange to function if the ACA is repealed.

The package is the latest example of New York Democrats lining up to oppose President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans. The Obamacare replacement plan that has been put out by the House GOP has received a rocky reception in New York.

“The Senate Democratic Conference will not sit idly by while the White House attempts to strip away New Yorkers’ health coverage and the (state) Senate Republicans turn a blind eye,” Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said at an afternoon news conference. “New York is once again at the forefront of the resistance, and we are proud to lead it.”

What some might say is turning a blind eye, others might say is simply awaiting direction from Washington before reacting.

Top lawmakers seem to be playing a waiting game when it comes to the repeal of the ACA. Senate Republican Majority Leader John Flanagan, R-Long Island, told reporters last week that he would not “prognosticate on something that has not happened” and that state-level representatives must respect the role the federal government plays in addressing various issues.

“If it’s going to be about ACA, that’s in their bailiwick, that’s what they’re supposed to do,” he said. “Now, will we have to react to things like that? Sure. But I’m comfortable working with our (congressional) delegation.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration is looking at how state funding might help residents maintain financial assistance they receive under Obamacare. But Cuomo’s counsel Alphonso David told Politico New York that the administration is “not planning anything, we’re not doing extensive research. We can’t, because if we did it would be futile because you don’t actually have anything on paper yet.”

“What we’re just doing is keeping our ears on the ground, trying to get as much information as we can,” David told the news website. “If something changes, we’re going to have to respond, review and analyze. That’s, I think, what we’re preparing for and that’s as far as we can go.”

The Cuomo administration has estimated that repeal of Obamacare could blow a $3.7 billion hole in the state budget and leave 2.7 million New Yorkers at risk of losing insurance coverage.