Health Care for All New Yorkers Bill Introduced

June 7, 2011

All New York residents would receive comprehensive health coverage under “New York Health,” a universal health care bill introduced by key legislators today. Under the plan, publicly-sponsored coverage would replace insurance company coverage, and premiums would be replaced by broad-based public financing based on ability to pay. The bill, A.7860/S.5425, introduced by Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried and Senate Health Committee Ranking Member Thomas K. Duane, is co-sponsored by 62 other legislators.

Gottfried and Duane were joined at the Albany press conference today by Dr. Garrett Adams, national president of Physicians for a National Health Program; Shaun Flynn of the New York State Nurses Association; Mark Dunlea, co-chair of Single Payer New York and Executive Director of Hunger Action Network of NYS; and Laurie Wen, Executive Director of Physicians for a National Health Program, New York Metro chapter.

“We can get better coverage, get all of us covered, and save billions by having New York provide publicly-sponsored, single-payer health coverage, like Medicare or Child Health Plus but for everyone,” Assembly Member Gottfried said.

“New Yorkers need and deserve security when they are sick or injured, and should not fear for how they will pay for medical bills. Primary care and access to health care should be a right. A single-payer system is not only cost-efficient, but the fair and moral choice for New York,” said Senator Duane.

On May 26, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed into law legislation that creates a single-payer system for that state. New York can be the second state to pass groundbreaking legislation that would provide a full benefit package to all New Yorkers that is more comprehensive than most commercial health plans.

“The current system doesn’t work for patients or health care providers, or for the employers, individuals, and taxpayers who pay for care and coverage today,” Mr. Gottfried said.

Under this plan, no one would have to give up the doctors or other providers they use. Instead of individuals and employers paying high premium costs, the coverage would be funded through a graduated tax on income, the legislators said. Deductibles would also be eliminated and co-payments would be non-existent.

“Federal health care reform made major improvements, but it still leaves insurance companies with too much control over premiums. Premiums are unrelated to a consumer’s ability to pay. Too often, patients and their doctors are left trying to figure out what is covered and then trying to get reimbursed. New York State can do better,” Mr. Duane said.

“Health coverage should be accountable to the people of New York, not to insurance company stockholders. We should get the administrative and cost savings of a single-payer system – which have been documented in repeated independent studies. It should be fairly funded based on ability to pay,” Assembly Member Gottfried added.

“The Physicians for a National Health Program salute Assembly Member Gottfried and Senator Duane for their vision for social justice for New Yorkers. “New York Health” is model health reform legislation, not only for the people of New York but for the nation,” said Dr. Adams.

"Two critical elements missing from the recent national health care package was ensuring that everyone had access to quality health care and controlling costs. That is why this state single payer proposal is so critical. Canada's universal health care system started at the province rather than the national level, and it will be up to states like Vermont and New York to show how to make health care an affordable right at a sustainable cost," said Mr. Dunlea.

"Doctors and patients are sick of a system controlled by private insurance companies. They don’t provide the services they overcharge us for and they make huge profits by denying care. What we need instead is a system accountable to the public, not to CEOs and shareholders. The Gottfried/Duane bill would restore the doctor-patient relationship and give doctors the freedom to take care of patients," commented Ms. Wen.

In 2009, the “Partnership for Coverage” report by the New York State Health and Insurance Departments, based on an analysis by the Urban Institute, found that a single-payer plan would be the lowest-cost alternative for universal coverage, compared to plans relying on insurance companies and employment-based coverage.

Single-payer plans like New York Health would save billions of dollars, including excess insurance company administrative costs and profit; and billing and collecting for hospitals, physicians and other health care providers. Current federal, state and local expenditures for health care services – primarily through Medicare and Medicaid – would be incorporated into the New York Health Plan to help pay for the program.

Assembly Member Gottfried added, “By eliminating the need for any employer to provide health coverage for its workers, we would make New York dramatically more job-friendly, especially for small businesses, start-ups and low-margin businesses, while offering better and more secure coverage to every New Yorker.”

Single-payer health coverage is a system in which a single public or quasi-public agency pays for health care for all residents, but delivery of care is primarily private, as it is now. Patients would have freedom of choice of health care providers, and health care decisions are made by patients and their doctors, not by insurance companies. All New Yorkers would be covered for all medically necessary services, including: primary, preventive, and specialist care; hospital; ; mental health; reproductive health care; dental; vision; prescription drug; and medical supply costs.

The cost of New York Health would not be new spending, the legislators said. For most people, it will be a substantial reduction in what they are now spending. When employers and individuals aren’t “taxed” by out-of-control insurance company premiums and deductibles, most people’s take-home pay will go up.