While some in the labor movement counsel that the fight to establish a single-payer expanded and improved Medicare for All system must wait until the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is fully implemented or until a Democratic majority is restored to the U.S. Congress, activists in New York continue to move the healthcare justice struggle forward.
They are mobilizing support for Assemblyman Gottfried’s “New York Health Bill (A.5389)” that would create a single-payer, universal healthcare system for all New Yorkers funded through equitable public financing and with no co-pays, no deductibles and no premiums.
“The ACA has made some important improvements in how we organize and pay for healthcare in this country,” said Gottfried, who chairs the Assembly Health Committee. “But it still leaves us and our healthcare and our wallets in the hands of private insurance companies… We can do better.” A just released study finds that, even if New York State embraces Medicaid expansion under the ACA, over 1.2 million New Yorkers will remain uninsured in 2016. Millions more will be afflicted with inferior insurance plans that would do little to protect them from bankruptcy if they experience a major medical catastrophe.
Last month, hundreds of union members, doctors, community advocates and seniors assembled in Albany to deliver 10,000 signatures in support of the Bill. Major labor supporters include LCSP endorsing unions IATSE Local One, New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), New York State Public Employees Federation (PEF) and United University Professionals/AFT. Other allies include Single Payer New York, Healthcare NOW NY, and the New York Metro Chapter of the Physicians for a National Health Program.
NYSNA RN Lisa Blodgett told supporters that nurses see patients every day who could benefit from the bill. “Not only is it the humane thing to do, it is the financially responsible thing to do,” she added, because the Bill would eliminate wasteful administrative costs and private insurance company profiteering while closing coverage loopholes for millions of working families.
Wayne Bayer, PEF Vice President, pointed out that, “With single-payer, New York manufacturing would be more competitive with the western European countries and Canada that have had universal healthcare for decades.” A 2009 report by the New York State Department of Health and Insurance Department found that a single-payer system would provide universal coverage at a lower total cost than plans relying on private insurance.
The New York Health Bill currently has 76 co-sponsors. This is a majority in the 150-member State Assembly. A companion bill in the State Senate, sponsored by Senator Perkins, has 18 co-sponsors among the 63 Senators. Assemblyman Gottfried is pushing to bring this Bill to a vote this session with the recommendation of the Assembly Health Committee.
Some activists, however, are urging New Yorkers to be wary of the “California Effect” in which legislative support for a single-payer bill appears to evaporate right at the moment when passage seems possible. They attribute this effect to the massive power that the for-profit healthcare industry can bring to bear on individual legislators and governors through a myriad of avenues.
The Labor Campaign for Single Payer was launched to support the building of a grassroots movement strong enough to overcome this massed corporate power. Labor is central to this fight because of its ability to marshal the resources and organizing capacity to build this movement. Victory in New York will ultimately depend on our ability to mobilize a statewide movement for healthcare justice. Now is the time for every union in the state to commit to this movement.
All Out on July 2!
On a national level, the “Grand Bargain” proposals released earlier this year to balance the federal budget through cuts to Social Security, Medicare and other core social insurance programs have proven to be spectacularly unpopular. Rep. Alan Grayson, among others, has declared the proposals, “Dead. Dead. Dead.”
But, just as in New York, it would be a mistake to ever underestimate the power of the corporate interests promoting these proposals. The Alliance for Retired Americans has called for a Human Chain Against the Chained CPI on July 2.
The Labor Campaign understands that our movement is an organic part of the fight to defend and expand the social insurance model. Human Chain actions are currently planned in 19 states. We urge you to help mobilize support in your area. More information is available here.