On May 27 the New York State Assembly overwhelmingly passed the “New York Health Act” (A. 5062). The bill would eliminate private health insurance and cover all New Yorkers in a publicly financed universal plan with no patient premiums, deductibles or co-payments. Implementation would require several waivers from the federal government.
“New Yorkers deserve better,” said bill sponsor Assembly Member Richard Gottfried. “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 about network restrictions.” Gottfried has led a decades-long effort in the Assembly on behalf of universal healthcare.
An analysis prepared by economist Gerald Friedman shows that, under New York Health, 98% of all New Yorkers would pay less than they currently do. And, despite the fact that the bill expands coverage to over 1.3 million uninsured New Yorkers and virtually eliminates all co-pays and out of pocket expenses, the Friedman study predicts a net savings of $45 billion per year. These savings are achieved through vastly reduced administrative costs, the elimination of private insurance and the limiting of the scope of operations of other healthcare profiteers.
Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, President of the New York State Nurses Association, applauded the bill’s passage. “Our healthcare system is fundamentally damaged. Too many parties are in it to make a buck off the misfortune of the sick and injured. Only under a system of universal access based on the highest quality of care for everyone will there be enough resources directed to the proper care of patients.”
LCSP affiliates like NYSNA and Local One IATSE have long led the labor efforts for single-payer in New York State. In recent months they were joined by dozens of other unions, including large statewide unions like SEIU Locals 1199 and 32 B-J, New York State United Teachers, CWA, UAW and RWDSU. Labor resources and organizing helped put the bill over the top.
“The movement for healthcare for all took a big step forward yesterday,” said Local One Recording Secretary Robert Score. “Our thanks go out to Assemblyman Gottfried for his tireless advocacy and our congratulations to the thousands of New Yorkers who helped to build the grassroots movement to pass this bill.”
Healthcare NOW and the Metro NY PNHP chapter also helped in the grassroots effort, which mobilized dozens of community and civic organizations. “I applaud the State Assembly for recognizing health care as a human right,” commented Mark Dunlea of the Hunger Action Network. “It is time for the Governor and Senate Republicans to put the needs of the average New Yorkers ahead of the profits of insurance and drug companies.”
The bill now goes to the State Senate where it faces stiff resistance. And Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo has yet to take a position on the legislation. It continues to be fiercely opposed by the medical industrial complex and many private employers. Paul Macieak, CEO of the association representing health insurers warned that New York Health “would dissolve the current private healthcare industry.”
Joel Shufro, a longtime advocate for occupational health and safety, worked to recruit a number of unions to support the bill. “This is a great victory, but now the hard work begins,” he warned. “Getting the bill through the Senate and getting the Governor to sign it will be a long and difficult struggle. We must keep on building the grassroots movement if we ever hope to win the right to healthcare for everyone in New York.”