As “Trumpcare” looms, some say it’s time for single-payer health care in NY

Gazette photo by Jonathan Forrester
State Senator James Sanders Jr., holding the microphone, and other advocates begin chanting, “Health care for people, not for profit” at a rally outside of the Capitol for the New York Health Act.

 “Your wealth should not determine your health,” advocates tell lawmakers

As President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers seek to repeal the Affordable Care Act and pass their American Health Care Act, a universal single-payer health program for New Yorkers could pick up more support this session.

The New York Health Act, championed again by Assembly Health Chair Richard Gottfried and Sen. Gustavo Rivera, would create a health program for New Yorkers to provide health insurance to every resident.

Assemblyman Gottfried

“The reason we have come this far is because we are dreaming,” said Gottfried, D-Manhattan. “It’s those dreams that make reality in this country.”

Legislators, doctors, nurses, patients and business owners rallied outside the Capitol in Albany last week pushing for more support in the state Senate, while the Assembly prepares to pass the bill for the third year in a row.

“We have 30 members in the state Senate who have signed on as co-sponsors for this bill,” Gottfried said. The Assembly has 74 other members cosponsoring the bill.

The last requirement to pass the bill in the state Senate now is two more votes, since 32 would be a majority in that house.

Specifically, the bill (A.4738/S.4840) would allow all New York residents to enroll, regardless of age, income, employment or any other status, in a universal, single-payer health care plan. There would be no network restrictions, deductibles or co-pays, and coverage would be publicly funded.

Under the legislation, New Yorkers would receive are out-of-hospital and in-hospital medical care, primary and preventive care, prescription drugs, laboratory tests, rehabilitative, dental, vision, hearing and all other health concerning issues.

“Your wealth should not determine your health,” said Rivera, D-Bronx, the bill’s sponsor in the state Senate.

All benefits required by current state insurance law or provided by the state public employee package, Family Health Plus, Child Health Plus, Medicare and any others added by the plan, would be included as well. All federal funds for these programs would combine with state revenue in a New York Health Trust Fund, and the funding of Medicare through local taxes would no longer be necessary, supporters say.

“Twenty million New Yorkers are going to have health care without financial barriers,” said Gottfried. “It’s hard to imagine anything that we have achieved in New York in the last century, or more, that will be as important to every New Yorker as getting the New York Health Act enacted.”

New York’s funding for the New York Health Trust Fund would be based on a progressively graduated payroll premium. At least 80 percent funded by the employer, while no more than 20 percent funded by the employee. All self employed New Yorkers would pay 100 percent.

Any private insurance companies that offer duplicate benefits of the New York Health Act could not be offered to New Yorkers. Any existing retiree coverage could be phased out and replaced with the New York Health Act.

New Yorkers would choose a care provider for coordination, whose job is to help patients get care, follow-ups, referrals and system navigation, without facing any obstacles.

The bill would also cover care for New Yorkers who travel out of state, be it for traveling or a clinical reason for an out-of-state provider. All health care providers would be paid fully by the New York Health Trust Fund.

“My friends, I agree with Bernie,” said state Senator James Sanders Jr., D-Rochdale Village. “We don’t want to get rid of Obamacare, we want to change it into single payer.”

Although long-term care coverage would not be included at the start, the bill requires the Board of Trustees — a broadly representative trust that would advise the Commissioner of Health — to develop a plan within two years of passage. The Board would also develop proposals for retiree health benefits, coverage and services under the workers’ compensation law.

Additionally, six regional advisory councils would be established, advise the Board, Commissioner, Governor and Legislature on the health care needs of their regions.

“I think this fiasco down in D.C. over Trumpcare, as if Trump cares…has created an opportunity,” said Sanders. “To our president we say this, ‘love, not hate, will make America great.’”