Universal Healthcare In New York Can’t Wait

December 8, 2014

By Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton

Even as we hear good news about the economy, many New Yorkers are finding that they continue to struggle with inadequate and expensive healthcare coverage. Wasn’t the Affordable Care Act supposed to fix all this? It’s true that the Affordable Care Act has had some significant success, such as helping 900,000 New Yorkers get the coverage that they otherwise wouldn’t have had.

But even so, our private healthcare system is still too expensive for the average family, and it still leaves 1.5 million people uninsured. Just this year, New Yorkers lucky enough to be insured were told that their insurance rates would go up an average of 6%, with some companies jacking up rates as much as 10% or more. Even with the Affordable Care Act, the additional burden is forcing too many New Yorkers to stretch their family budgets to pay for premiums and out-of-network costs.

But there is another way. By implementing truly universal healthcare for everyone we could insure everyone in the state and save $20 billion in costs. A bill currently proposed in Albany, the “NY Health” Act , would implement a truly universal healthcare plan (like Medicare, but for everyone). And if passed, it would mean New Yorkers would be paying much less for healthcare coverage than they currently do.

So how would it work? Under the proposal, instead of New Yorkers and their employers paying premiums, deductibles, co-pays, and out-of-network charges, they would pay into a dedicated fund based on their income. The fund would then pay doctors, hospitals and other providers for the care they provide.

Wouldn’t this mean a hefty tax increase? In fact, New York Health would save money for New Yorkers by helping to control costs. Because insurance company overhead now takes 20-30% of every dollar spent on healthcare, the average New York family would see their total costs go down under New York Health. Small businesses, which spend billions of dollars on premiums, would also see a decrease in their insurance costs. Even property taxes would go down. New York Health would eliminate the local share of Medicaid, and would reduce billions that local governments and our schools spend for employee health benefits. The bottom line is New Yorkers will have more money in our pockets and better health care for our families.

Of course, it would be great to have truly universal coverage in every state. But we can’t wait for Washington. A progressive state like New York can and should take the lead. Given the current makeup of Congress, it’s unlikely that any major national healthcare legislation will be enacted in the near future. The time to act is now. Please join Assemblyman Gottfried, Chair of the Assembly Health Committee, and me for a public hearing on the New York Health Act on Thursday, December 4, 10 AM at the Medical Alumni Auditorium, Weiskotten Hall, Upstate Medical University, 766 Irving Avenue, in Syracuse, NY.

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