Skip to main content

tHE FIGHT FOR HEALTH CARE FOR ALL

February 7, 2019 12:12 am

A new battle is shaping up in New York state over health care, and ground zero is going to be the New York Health Act, which would launch state-financed single-payer health care. The legislation passed in the state Assembly for four consecutive years but it has not budged in the Senate. With Obamacare interred in political purgatory, intensive debate over a single-payer system is about to begin in earnest.

With new Democratic leadership in the Senate, Republicans face an enormous challenge to keep the legislation under wraps any longer. Assemblywoman Didi Barrett, D-46, is an ardent supporter.

“Every New Yorker — regardless of income, class, age or pre-existing condition — deserves access to high-quality health care,” Barrett said Tuesday. “In the Assembly, I’ve supported and helped pass the New York Health Act in the past. Like many initiatives, this legislation has received renewed attention thanks to the new leadership in the state Senate.”

The Assembly bill would provide free health care with no copays, deductibles or premiums for all New Yorkers. As it stands, the legislation would help more than 1 million people who have no health insurance, and it could assist many of the 18 million New Yorkers who have insurance but must pay large premiums, deductibles and copays.

Local Senate Republicans have made it clear the Assembly legislation will cost a fortune, but much of it would be covered by the diversion of federal funding to the single-payer system. Therein lies the rub. President Donald Trump has said he will not free up the funding.

Moreover, a 2018 study by the RAND Corp., a nonprofit analytical think tank, concluded that a single-payer system will force the state to raise another $139 billion in state tax revenue to cover the system for 2022. That’s a 156 percent increase in state tax revenue.

The legislation is supposed to raise that money through a huge increase in the state income tax, offset for some companies and individuals because they would not have to pay for care or coverage, but right now this is more pipe dream than reality.

State Sen. George Amedore Jr., R-46, is aware of the new political realities, but he warned many questions must still be answered.

“It is more likely to come up for a vote in the Senate, with the new majority, but I hope it’s not simply a rush to pass it to claim another progressive victory without considering the potential impacts on the taxpayer and the overall quality of care,” Amedore said. “The idea of universal health care sounds great, but who is going to pay for it? We need to reform health care and implement ways to make it more affordable, accessible and improve the quality, but a government-run system is just not the answer.”

It’s too early in the game to relegate single-payer health care to the dustbin, but steps must be taken to craft a bill that won’t bury New Yorkers under massive tax increases and get affordable health care to the 6 percent of people in the state who have no health care at all.